Bruce Schultz | 9/27/2006 1:08:59 AM
CAMERON, La. – Southwest Louisiana 4-H Club members gave Gov. Kathleen Blanco a check for more than $50,000 at Saturday’s (Sept. 23) commemoration of Hurricane Rita’s first anniversary.
The check represents cash raised by the 4-H’ers and the value of their volunteer work in hurricane recovery efforts.
U.S. Army Gen. Russel Honore, a former Louisiana 4-H member and one of the key federal officials charged with overseeing a part of the state’s recovery from last year’s hurricanes, was among those attending the commemoration. He also rode in a ceremonial cattle drive designed to remember Rita’s devastation of that industry in the area.
Honore publicly thanked the 4-H members for their efforts.
"I was a 4-H’er myself," he told the crowd, crediting the organization for helping guide him through his youth.
Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension, praised the 4-H members who volunteered and raised money for the hurricane recovery.
"I think the governor was very impressed with what 4-H has accomplished and also was touched by comments from General Honore saying 4-H was a special part of his life and helped bring him to where he is today," Coreil said. "This was a very powerful message that was heard by everyone attending, including the governor, lieutenant governor, Don Powell (federal coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding) and our congressional delegation. It was quite a testimonial."
Justin Trahan of Cameron Parish and Cody Turner of Lafayette, both 4-H junior leaders, presented the check to the governor.
Trahan said his family has moved from Cameron to Grand Lake since Hurricane Rita.
"Eventually, we probably will be back," he said.
Trahan was among several Cameron Parish 4-H members who were taken on a whitewater rafting trip this past summer, courtesy of 4-H clubs from other parishes.
Two other 4-H junior leaders, Darbi Montie of Cameron and Eve Francheboix of Lafayette, led those attending the commemoration ceremony in the pledge of allegiance.
Montie said she got to go to 4-H summer camp this year, thanks to help from other 4-H clubs, and she did volunteer work in the storm-damaged area.
She said her family is living in Grand Lake.
"Things are kind of back to normal, but everyone is so spread out," she said.
Francheboix and Turner were among several 4-H Club members from Lafayette who came to the commemoration to help with the ceremony and visit with new friends from Cameron.
Vickie Cormier, a Lafayette Parish adult 4-H volunteer who also attended, said students from Lafayette brought Christmas gifts to Cameron Parish students last year.
Denise Turner, also a Lafayette Parish adult 4-H volunteer, said fund-raising events to help hurricane victims were successful.
"We raised quite a bit of money, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,900," she said.
Donnie Roger of Johnson Bayou was among cattle producers who rode on horseback for the cattle drive. He said the event brought back several memories.
"It was very symbolic," he said. "That’s why I’m here today. I worked cattle with most of those boys."
Roger said he has only 18 cattle that were found after the hurricane.
"Rita got most of them, more than 100," he said.
But Roger said his family has owned the cattle farm for more than 150 years, and he doesn’t plan to quit the operation.
"We will be back," he vowed.
Also Saturday, a ribbon cutting was held to mark the opening of an ice plant. Shell Oil provided more than $1 million for the ice plant. Organizations that helped with getting the facility included the LSU AgCenter, LSU Sea Grant, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and Cameron Parish government.
The plant, capable of producing 20 tons of ice per day, was obtained from Morris and Associates of Raleigh, N.C.
The old ice plant was irreparably damaged by Rita. Ice is an essential commodity for the fishing industry to keep its products cold until they are brought to market.
Harlon Pearce, president of the Seafood Promotion Board, credited LSU AgCenter fisheries agent Kevin Savoie of Cameron Parish for his role.
"He’s the guy who did all the leg work with the Police Jury," Pearce said. "This is one of the important partners."
Savoie said the fishing community returning to the sea is helping Cameron Parish recover.
"You are a sign of hope, work and courage to come back and rebuild this community," he said.
Shrimper Ira Rodrigue said the ice plant has made it possible to get back to work.
Dwight Landreneau, LSU AgCenter associate vice chancellor for extension and former Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries secretary, told the gathering the project demonstrates the AgCenter’s role at helping state residents and "bringing the university to the people."
"The seafood industry is extremely important, not only just for Louisiana, but for the whole world," Landreneau said.
"It’s a lifesaver," he said. "We appreciate it a lot. Without that, it would have been rough."
Writer: Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or firstname.lastname@example.org