Aug 21, 2023

Mirror of Grace Outreach is a nonprofit with a vision

Mirror of Grace Outreach executive director Patricia Norwood leads a “Parenting Wisely” program, Tuesday, August 22, 2023, hosted by the nonprofit at the Eden Park Library in Baton Rouge, La.

Everyday heroes do their part to make the world a better place. Rather than quietly shaking their heads and/or loudly complaining about the state of this world, everyday heroes do something about the troubles they see. They work toward a solution and to improve the lives of those around them.

After Patricia Norwood's brother died in 2007, leaving his office building on North Lobdell Boulevard empty, people who knew Norwood thought that she would open a beauty salon there.

She had owned a beauty salon in California, where she lived for 30 years, before returning home to Baton Rouge in 2007, and is a licensed cosmetologist in Louisiana, as well.

But, said Norwood, "I never thought of opening a salon. I wanted to serve the community."

"I wanted to do what my brother did — help people," she said.

Her late brother, Leon Harrel, was an attorney who often offered his services free of charge, she said.

"A lot of people came here for legal advice," said Norwood.

Now the North Lobdell building is home to the nonprofit organization Mirror of Grace Outreach, founded by Norwood in 2010.

It's an organization she calls "a God-given vision."

Since its founding, the nonprofit has added programs and services that reach hundreds of people every year.

All of the programs are free of charge to the people they serve.

"Mirror of Grace Outreach is blessed to be a blessing," Norwood said. "We're small, with a big vision."

The work is a calling for Norwood, who in California was also a youth counselor with the California Youth Authority, and is an ordained minister and licensed therapist, as well.

In 2015, Mirror of Grace joined forces with Capital Area Human Services to offer "Parenting Wisely" classes on parenting and conflict management skills.

The next classes will be held from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 7, 14 and 21, at the Eden Park Library on Greenwell Springs Road.

Some of the topics covered in the classes include: problems at school, curfew, sibling conflict and what parents should do if they discover a child has brought drugs home.

"It's so important to keep it real," Norwood said.

Mirror of Grace also brings the parenting classes to inmates at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and the West Baton Rouge Detention Center.

Mirror of Grace "has done exceptional work," said Bridget Lewis, a prevention services program manager with Capital Area Human Services

"Patricia is very passionate about the program," Lewis said. "Everything she does is from the heart."

Other Mirror of Grace Outreach programs:

The nonprofit also keeps a food pantry and clothing closet stocked.

"People come in, looking for help," Norwood said.

She's working on securing a grant to help Mirror of Grace Outreach bring back another program — computer literacy classes.

Called "Ready, Set, Grow!" the classes were discontinued due to lack of funding in recent years, but Norwood is hoping to be able to bring back the free classes in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Web development is taught, as well.

"That's good for future entrepreneurs," said Norwood.

The idea for the class came from another of Norwood's brothers, the Rev. Leonard Harrel Sr., pastor of First Baptist Church of Richmond Park, in Baton Rouge.

Before he became full-time pastor at the church, Harrel worked in IT for a local business and volunteered his time in the evenings to teach the computer classes at Mirror of Grace.

"The people in the classes were so hungry for that information," Harrel said. "People still ask me, 'When are you guys going to offer more classes?'"

Another of Norwood's family-member volunteers, her nephew, Jonathan Buford, whose father was the attorney Leon Harrel, helps with technical support for the nonprofit organization.

And Norwood credits her late husband, Stanley Norwood, who died in 2020, with encouraging her and believing in her, as she started on her path with Mirror of Grace Outreach.

"I come from a family known for giving back," she said.

Email Ellyn Couvillion at [email protected].