Places & Faces
First Person with Pearl Cole of Abraham's Tent
11/30/2018 11:51:41 AM
First Person

Since 1986, Abraham’s Tent has served the homeless, transients, the unemployed or underemployed, and those living on a fixed income, struggling to make ends meet. Each day, the center serves a hot lunch to the disadvantaged, moms with young children, the elderly and disabled, the mentally ill. All are welcome and no one is turned away. Ms. Pearl Cole, the face and heart of Abraham’s Tent, has been involved with the organization since its inception. She greets each client with a smile, and bids them adieu with two bus tokens – one for the ride home and one to return the next day. Prior to her role with "the Tent,” Cole volunteered at her church, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Opelousas St. She saw needy people come off the interstate and knock on the church doors, seeking assistance. Their plight prompted Cole to action. Soon after, she worked for the Diocese of Lake Charles, which was instrumental in the formation of Abraham’s Tent. Cole volunteered at the center and three years later, became the director, where she continues to tirelessly serve.

When Abraham’s Tent first opened, they served lunch to approximately 100 people a day at the center and an additional 25 or so lunches to residents at Chateau du Lac, the subsidized apartments on Ryan St., Lake Charles. Today, the center serves 250-300, and 80-100 meals are sent to the apartment complex a day. The need is real. 

In 2014, the organization’s board built a much-needed new building. This facility has allowed Cole and her army of volunteers to better serve their clients with amenities such as showers, laundry, and reliable air conditioning. Not surprisingly, they named the building in honor of Pearl Cole.

Thrive magazine recently sat down with Ms. Cole where she talked about her parents, her people, and the importance of discovering one’s purpose.

Tell me about your childhood and how it has influenced the person you are today? 
I grew up in rural Kinder. I was one of five children. But years later, my parents took on five more children. First, my mother’s younger sister, after their parents died. Later on, that sister died and my parents raised her children. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I wasn’t happy to have that many people in my parent’s house. I was still a bit selfish then. But now as I look back, I understand why they did it, and how God blessed them. I was raised with this sense of family. My parents took on a lot. I never understood how they did it. But now I recognize it was not only this sense of family that enabled them to do the things they did, but also a sense of community. When one person in the community had, everyone had. One family had a great garden, one family owned cattle, another something else. My aunts sewed and taught me to sew, so we always had clothing. Everyone shared and took care of each other. This set the tone for my life.

Describe your philosophy and reason for a life of service.
God has given each of us a life with a purpose. I knew this from a very young age. And I wanted to find my purpose. I knew my purpose was not just as a wife, a woman, a mother. It went beyond that. I think God has something pre-planned for each of us. I prayed for God to help me find this purpose. I believe God will take care of you if you accept what He has given you; that calling. I’m a witness to that. I want to do more than just live. And I don’t care what people say about me. I want to be pleasing in God’s sight. My goal is to make a difference in others’ lives.

How has the community responded to Abraham’s Tent?
For years, we struggled. It took many years for the community to recognize who we are, what we do, and how they can help. More recently, we’ve drawn attention, and that’s a good thing. God has always provided. We’ve never had a bad day. I go home and sleep well, because somebody got fed today. 

How is Abraham’s Tent funded? 
Forty percent of funding comes from the United Way. And there are several fundraisers throughout the year. Clean Out the Freezer Day is geared to fishermen and hunters who donate meat they have frozen. Last month, KPLC sponsored Pack the Tent Food Drive, which brought in cleaning supplies, dry goods, and canned food. KYKZ-FM’s Ashley and Cooper hosted the station’s annual Camp Out for a Cause. Numerous churches, clubs, and civic groups also volunteer throughout the year.

What would you like the community to know about your clients? 
Lots of people are struggling. For many people who are homeless, it is a temporary crisis. And there are people who are trying but just haven’t gotten to where they want to be. Many of my clients are on fixed incomes. It’s hard to make progress. 

What are the holidays like at Abraham's Tent? 
The holidays are awesome! I feel like Santa Claus and I’m so happy. We have a Christmas meal. I make goody bags filled with personal care items and my clients are so excited to receive them. I was raised in a home where Christmas was very important, and I love expressing that. Abraham’s Tent is blessed with the spirit of giving during the holidays. 

What do you love most about your role as Director of Abraham’s Tent? 
The people. I love people. So often, we take things for granted. Simple things, such as clothing. When we first opened the Tent, I cleaned out my closet and brought in clothes in case the clients needed them. And people were so grateful to have them. That made me feel good. Another exciting thing I’ve learned is that there are so many good people in this community. The community is so willing to respond to the needs here at Abrahams’s Tent. Lake Charles is an awesome place. Always willing to help.

I always like to say thank you to the community for supporting us. We couldn’t do this without the public.
Posted by: Angie Kay Dilmore | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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