Natchitoches civic engagement meets every need


Nathan Wilson | Reporter
Part 1 of a 2 part series
Psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced a theory of motivation in 1943 that revolutionized the conception of human fulfillment and wellbeing. Today those factors play out in the lives of Natchitoches residents through civic engagement.
Maslow asserted each person has a series of needs they must satisfy to achieve a sense of personal fulfillment he called self-actualization and organized them in a hierarchy. As a person’s needs are met on one level, their motivation shifts to seek their next set of needs. Nearly eighty years later, his theory influences fields such as education, social work and business management.
Community members coordinate activities to meet the needs of Natchitoches residents at every level and create a vibrant community with an April weekend providing examples of each.
The Times will showcase each of the levels of Maslow’s hierarchy in a series of stories over the next several editions. The first installments follow.

This article published in the April 16, 2022, print edition

Physiological needs: Food
The Cane River Food Pantry meets one of the most basic needs- food. Maslow described how deprivation consumed a person’s senses. “For the man who is extremely and dangerously hungry, no other interests exist but food. He dreams food, he remembers food, he thinks about food, he emotes only about food, he perceives only food and he wants only food.”  
John Robertson, who retired from the State Department after serving in the Navy, brought together members of the Krewe of Excellence to distribute food Saturday, April 9. “I was co-chair of the community service section of the krewe, and I mentioned that is one of the things that the krewe could do.” The pantry relies on the continued dedication of individuals like Robertson, who checks in recipients each month during distribution events, and welcomes occasional help from outside organizations like Excellence.
Robertson has become part of the pantry’s community. He has returned each month for over three years, but was helping feed people years before. “Before Covid, me and my brother, Rasul Abdullah, for two years we would make lunches and deliver them throughout the community about twice a month.” Robertson and Abdullah stopped when the pandemic began, but they’re talking about resuming. Robertson looks forward to having his help again. “He knew the areas that were in need, and he’s a retired fire captain from the Natchitoches Fire Department,” he said.
Robertson offers his reason for helping at the pantry. “We want to give back to the community,” he says. “We both had pretty decent lives. We don’t look for publicity. We just get out and do it.” He once posted about his efforts online to find more people to help, but he didn’t like the response because people tried offering him money. “We didn’t want to get into that because then you start getting into bookkeeping and all that stuff,” he says. “We had one or two people that actually forced their way into giving us a donation, bought something like a roll of hamburger or pasta or stuff that we cook, but we just like to do it ourselves.”
Saturday was Ralph Wilson’s first time volunteering at the food pantry as a member of Excellence. “It’s a form of sharing,” he says about Excellence’s efforts. “We recognize through service it’s a continued way for us to grow.” He describes his experience. “I thoroughly enjoyed it. I encourage others, and hopefully we’ll be able to get other members of our krewe to participate,” he says. “There’s so many things that they need.” Excellence has other areas where they plan to focus their efforts as well. “We want to enhance our community through educational opportunities, healthcare and wellness opportunities,” he says.

Safety needs: Pets, wellbeing
Maslow described a person’s sense of safety as a person’s perception of security and stability rather than simply freedom from danger. “Our society generally prefers a safe, orderly, predictable, organized world, which (they) can count, on, and in which unexpected, unmanageable or other dangerous things do not happen,” he wrote.
Natchitoches Humane Society (NHS) volunteer Karn Richoux listed the benefits her family enjoys from pet ownership. “Entertainment, love, companionship” she said. “Some people might feel safer if you have a dog that can alert you to goings on outside.” She added before laughing. “I wouldn’t know what that is like because my dog is deaf so she’s not a very good watch dog.” She looked to the positive side. “We’re about a week and a half away from having a baby, so it’ll be nice that she can’t get upset by a baby crying.”
Recognizing the importance of pets to securing a family’s sense of wellbeing, the NHS is offering a series of Pet Health Fairs. During their April 9 health fair, NHS volunteers offered residents pet care information and vouchers redeemable for rabies vaccinations and spaying and neutering services. Richoux pointed to an added benefit of having a pet neutered. “(Neutered) male dogs are less likely to roam and wander off so you don’t have that sort of worry, and its better for their health,” she said.