New executive director of the soon to be named Evangeline Parish Chamber of Commerce Renee Brown (left) is pictured here with Ville Platte Rotary President Wayne Vidrine (right) after speaking at a recent club meeting about upcoming goings-on around the parish. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)

Working in local communities

Ville Platte Rotary hears from Renee Brown and CASA representative

Newly named executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, Renee Brown, addressed the Ville Platte Rotary Club last week on ideas that came out of meeting with business leaders from the community.
Some of the ideas are holding forums for big and small businesses. “We’ll bring in organizations from throughout the state that are available for our businesses to utilize their services,” Brown said. “We can then find the common things that they need for their industry and business.”
As far as job opportunities, Brown talked about the new Chamber of Commerce Website “that now has a job area on it where we are listing jobs now.” She added that the Chamber is looking to hold a job fair in the fall. “We will invite other parishes that border us because they may have not only employees to possibly fill those positions here but maybe employment for some of our people.”
On the tourism side, Brown told the Rotarians about a new app that will be available on mobile devices. “When you open it, it’ll open up a page and have buttons on it that will have listings of all our businesses,” she said. “We will also have an area that lists where people can find souvenirs that they absolutely have to have when they come to Ville Platte.”
Brown led off her presentation stating that her organization will soon become the Evangeline Chamber of Commerce. “We have such a great brand of people and businesses, and this will bring our communities together,” she said. “We believe we can do so much more and get out of the number one poorest ranking.”
At this week’s meeting, the Rotary Club heard from Shelby Santiago on behalf of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), who was the guest of Rotarian Mable Foreman. Santiago led off her talk by painting a picture of the program through statistics from the St. Landry and Evangeline Parish areas.
“A CASA is pretty much the one consistent person in these children’s lives,” Santiago said. “They go and visit the child and get an observation of what the child’s environment is like. They’re just visiting with the child just like a niece or a nephew or a grandchild. Then, they write a court report and submit it to the judge.”
Santiago also expressed a need for more CASA volunteers. “I am actively recruiting for more CASAs,” she said. “Maybe you’re not interested in becoming a CASA because there’s a time constraint or you’re not readily available to become a CASA, but you may know someone. Or, maybe there’s another way that you can get involved. We do have different committees that help us to fund raise and help us to promote awareness.”
Earlier in the meeting, President Wayne Vidrine updated the Rotarians about a board meeting held the previous evening. One of the items was to extend an honorary membership to Fr. Mitch Guidry of Our Lady Queen of All Saints.
“We had extended an invitation to join Rotary to Fr. Mitch Guidry, and he felt that Tuesdays was going to be a conflict because of his schedule, and he didn’t want to commit to a membership that he couldn’t attend on a regular basis,” Vidrine said. “Because of his generosity to Rotary for us to use this building (the Family Life Center), the board has made a recommendation that we name him an honorary member.”
The club voted to bestow honorary status to Fr. Guidry. Vidrine then said, “That way he can feel free to come and go and visit anytime he wants.”
Vidrine then updated the club on possible scholarship options following a talk by Lana Fontenot from South Louisiana Community College.
“Following that meeting, she and I had a lengthy conversation,” Vidrine said. “She appealed to our club to find a way to reestablish the scholarship fund that we had for that school.”
He added, “(The board’s) recommendation is that we form a committee to begin a study to reestablish a scholarship fund dedicated to Coreil Campus. We have somewhere between $5 and $6 thousand in seed money that we will be able to use to begin that scholarship fund, and we want to style it in the same style as the LSUE scholarship.”
The club president also stated that the board “approved a donation to the Girls and Boys Place of $125.00 as a sponsorship for one child to attend functions this summer.”

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