DENHAM SPRINGS -- This time a year ago, the Ladies Ministry at Abundant Life Church had everything set up for the church’s first-ever chocolate boutique.
The outreach building was prepped for a party, with round tables situated in the middle of the room, each draped by black tablecloths and a white floral arrangement in the center. There were more tables along the walls, each decorated in its own way to accompany the food that sat atop — mainly different varieties of sweet-tasting chocolate.
Everything was ready, all the food was bought and all the tickets were sold when Christina Beatty, organizer of the event and head of the Ladies Ministry, decided to push the event back a couple of days as heavy rain began to fall on the Friday evening of Aug. 12, 2016.
She was hoping to have it that Sunday, but she never got the chance.
We all know what happened next.
“Then the flood happened,” Beatty said.
The Great Flood of 2016, while sweeping through Livingston Parish, brought floodwaters into all five buildings on Abundant Life Church’s campus, located just off Range Avenue in Denham Springs less than two miles from the I-12 exit.
But Beatty said the outreach building, which still had all the tables, floral arrangements and tasty chocolate set up inside, was the lucky one, only getting about 8 inches of water.
Beatty and her crew was able to save the tables, chairs and other various items and decorations, so they wasn’t starting from scratch when they picked up the idea again this year.
Only this time, everything went according to plan.
After waiting 12 months longer than they had originally planned, women of all ages got to satisfy their sweet tooth when the Ladies Ministry at Abundant Life Church (ALC) in Denham Springs put on its first-ever Chocolate Ladies Boutique in the outreach building on Friday, Aug. 11.
Tickets for the event were $5 apiece, and the Ladies Ministry sold 75 tickets two weeks ago before a “massive” week of sales leading up to the event, Beatty said. People were still buying them at the door minutes before things finally got started.
The anticipation for this event had certainly built up over the last year.
“All these ladies have been looking forward to it for a whole year, so it’s exciting,” said Beatty, wife of Rev. Greg Beatty.
By the time 6:30 p.m. rolled around, more than 200 women were seated in the outreach building, which was filled with the same tables, floral arrangements and decorations from a year ago. In fact, Beatty said it was pretty identical.
“This is exactly how it looked last year,” said Beatty as she waved her hand over the quickly-filling room.
The only thing that had to replaced was the one thing they all came for: chocolate. But with the help of ALC members who bought and prepared their own food, that part was easily taken care off — though the costs for everyone definitely added up.
“I know one thing: Chocolate isn’t cheap,” joked Beatty.
There were all kinds of chocolate available for taste testing, whether it was white chocolate, dark chocolate, mint chocolate, filled chocolate — or even a mouth-watering chocolate fountain. All the food was loaded on tables that lined the perimeter of the outreach building.
The women began the night by ranking the different types of chocolate that were arranged on their tables: dark, milk, white and filled chocolate.
After that, Beatty gave a short sermon reflecting on the past year for the community, which was a day away from the one-year-anniversary of the Great Flood. At one point, the emotions overtook Beatty.
“It can get overwhelming when you think about everything that’s happened,” she said to the silenced crowd, wiping a couple tears from her eyes. “But we’re still making it through.”
Beatty lightened thing up a few minutes later when she closed her speech saying, “It’s time to taste now.”
And taste they did.
After a few door prizes were handed out, the women spent the rest of the evening delighting on the dainties that had been prepared for their pleasure, waiting in long lines for their chance to grab a treat.
Each table had a different theme, and the food matched that theme.
The white chocolate table had creamy white chocolate pudding as well as crunchy white chocolate candy. The mint table had peppermint-flavored brownies and cookies, and the sweet n’ salty table had chocolate-dipped popcorn, pretzels and chips.
The fruit table was loaded with apples, apple dip and “fruit kabobs,” which consisted of pineapple, strawberries and berries stuffed inside a chocolate-dipped cone.
Near the stage, Puerto Rican native Betsy Concepcion even had a brew of “Coquito,” a popular drink from her homeland that she mixed using coconut milk, coconut cream and — you guessed it — chocolate.
There was also bite-sized chocolate chip cookie cake, chocolate cookie dough, Oreo cookies, peanut butter and chocolate cookies — and of course that chocolate fountain for all to dip their treats in.
ALC member Drema Thompson also had a table set up with non-chocolate food — most notably delicious, freshly-cooked meatballs — to give participants another option to chow down on.
“You can only eat so much chocolate,” she said.
On this night, however, this crowd of women tested that assertion.