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Chaplains Banquet raises funds for community help

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A fundraiser is helping the community on the “backside.”

The Super Derby Festival Chaplain’s Awards Banquet is a fundraiser for the Backside Benevolence Fund (BBF), whose mission is to assist and provide help in many ways for those working on the backside (or the stable/barn area) at Louisiana Downs.

The awards banquet is one of many sponsored events held each year to help generate funds to support programs and provide assistance that meet the spiritual, medical and social needs of the backside population.

One of their supported programs is the Winner’s Circle Church, located on the grounds of LA Downs. Chaplain Jimmy Sistrunk and a team of volunteers work year-round ministering to the men, women and children who call the backside their home.

Sistrunk, known simply as Chaplain Jimmy, said most residents on the backside often move from track to track. They are there to care for the animals, which Sistrunk said they take great pride in doing.

Each day begins with a morning devotion and prayer that Sistrunk delivers over the PA system. On race days, he meets with the jockeys for prayer and devotion about an hour before they hit the track.

There’s also a weekly nondenominational service on Tuesday night, which is open to the public. Sistrunk said he continues to be amazed at the amount of love for others and love for God the congregation shows.

“There are a lot of people here that love God,” he said. “It’s a very rewarding ministry to be in. There are few times where you see the rewards of your labor, but this industry is much different.”

Winner’s Circle Church not only provides spiritual support, but emotional support as well. They host social gatherings and cookouts for families to gather and even held Vacation Bible School for the first time this summer. During the holidays, the church has a fall festival with fun activities and they give away small treats during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“A lot of these people are away from their families. We like to give them something to let them know they are remembered and loved,” Sistrunk said.

Sistrunk said the Winner’s Circle Church has only one requirement to attend – that people love others unconditionally.

“That’s what Jesus did and we’re not here to do anything else,” he added.

Their second mission, Sistrunk said, is to make the word of God known by “the way we live and the message we give.”

“Life can be hard, but we have a simple approach to how we live every day – to live today for Christ and to make the same determination again tomorrow,” he said.

Sistrunk personally thanked the work of the BBF as well as the volunteers who work year-round to seeing the backside population continue to thrive.

“They have given us the means to support our chaplaincy so that we can continue to do the things we do,” Sistrunk said. “We couldn’t do this without them.”

The Super Derby Festival Chaplain’s Awards Banquet will be held Wednesday, Sept. 10, at the Horseshoe Riverdome in Bossier City. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7:30 p.m. There will be a live auction, silent auction, raffle and reverse drawing.

Tickets are $40 per person and still available to purchase. For more information or to buy tickets, contact Jimmy Sistrunk at (318) 560-7466.

For information on the Backside Benevolence Fund (BBF), send an e-mail to bbf.ladowns@yahoo.com or send an inquiry to P.O. Box 5584, Bossier City, LA 71171-5584.