By Anthony Alongi, Loyola Student News Service
The Broadmoor Arts and Wellness center opened its doors last year with the purpose of offering affordable developmental programs and activities to New Orleans residents.
Located on the second floor of the former St. Matthias school on General Taylor Boulevard, the center is one of four main anchors founded through the Broadmoor Improvement Association. There is also the South Broad Community Health Center, the Andrew H. Wilson Charter School and the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center.
“What’s really wonderful is we try to provide wellness programming for not only just the Broadmoor neighborhood, but New Orleans in general that’s going to enhance quality of life,” said Elaine Looney, program director for the Wellness Center.
Ensuring everybody can benefit from the center’s many programs, regardless of their income, is significant, Looney said.
“Our big emphasis is on accessibility, making things affordable. Health care is something that’s covered by insurance or it’s really expensive so we see clients on a sliding scale fee. So anybody that needs services and are going through grief, depression life adjustments, PTSD, family support, couples therapy, all those things. We work with our clients from zero dollars to whatever they can afford,” said Looney.
The center’s weekly schedule is packed with a diverse set of activities that include meditation classes, Pilates, yoga, and more.
“We offer anything from adult Zumba or contemporary dance and pottery to kid’s karate,” said Natalie Hare, community coordinator for the center.
The center also involves children in what’s going on in their neighborhood and community at large.
“There is a ‘ReThink’ group that we offer which is a kid’s group that talks about current issues in the city,” said Hare. “We have kid’s pottery, ballet, and just lots of different things we try and offer to cover the full spectrum.”
Looney says that the center continues to grow.
“We are always adding new classes and that’s fun. We’re a place that if people want to come to us and start a program we’re the place to do it. Also, we’re always seeking out interesting new classes that are going to improve people’s lives. We’re constantly hustling and working in the community to keep our eyes and ears open for people or things that might fit here,” said Looney.
The multipurpose room as well as the movement room are the spaces that the center uses to conduct its wide range of recreational and educational activities. These rooms can be rented out by instructors, teachers, or anybody needing space to host an event or activity.
“The movement room we use a lot for our yoga and dance classes, fitness classes. Those kind of things happen in here … our multipurpose room is exactly that. That’s where we have a lot of our events and classes. That’s where our pottery and art type activities take place,” said Looney.
There are also three counseling suites designed for counselors, therapists, and social workers.
“We rent out or counseling suites to outside practitioners who accept Medicaid. And then we have six social work interns on staff that do counseling on a sliding scale. Some of it is free depending on how much clients can pay or want to pay. A lot of them are very, very low cost if not free,” said Hare.
Providing resources to Broadmoor residents is another way in which the center functions as a valuable community pillar.
“I work with all residents who live in the Broadmoor neighborhood on quality of life issues they may be facing. That could be anything from a pothole in the street to a dispute with a neighbor, or their not getting any response from a city department and they need help from our organization to navigate that and figure out what the best resources are to solve the problem,” said Emily Wcislo, community organizer.
Wcislo says she loves helping people and making a difference in their lives. But she also appreciates the passion and intimacy she shares with her co-workers.
That desire among staff to help others is put on display every Monday and Wednesday when the center hosts its food pantry across the street at the Broadmoor Community Church.
The center works in partnership with the church and volunteers in order to provide low-income citizens and families with food.
“The majority of our folks are not starving, but they are insecure. They don’t know how they’re going to cover the next meal or the next month. We provide the ability to breathe for a few days or a week,” said Anamaria Villamarin-Lupin, wellness director and clinical supervisor.
Touro Synagogue on St. Charles Avenue contributes to the food pantry by donating vegetables grown in the synagogue’s garden, said Lupin. The synagogue also helps out in gathering food. The food pantry accepts food and cash donations from individuals as well.
Just as the people showing up to the food pantry are seeking help, the food pantry wouldn’t be possible if it didn’t get some help of its own, said Broadmoor Community Church Pastor Gregory Manning.
“We have some amazing volunteers. Most of the people that you see out here are volunteers taking their time to be here and work very hard. Some got here at 8 o’clock this morning and are carrying boxes and serving all of our clients and they are just amazing people and they do it with joy and a smile,” said Manning.
Although the city has other food pantries, people show up to this one because of the friendly and caring interactions that they have with the volunteers and other members of the program, Manning said.
“People have told us that they prefer coming to this one because they are treated with so much kindness and with love and they appreciate that,” said Manning.
With a foundation built on improving the lives of people within the community, the Broadmoor Arts and Wellness Center is a place with no shortage of motivated people.
“I think we do really good work here,” Wcislo said. “I’ve never been part of a group like this that gets things done and is very responsive to people and just has the ability to work with all different sorts of people so effectively.”
The Loyola Student News Service features reporters from advanced-level journalism classes at Loyola University New Orleans, directed by faculty advisers.