The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established by Arlene Meraux to benefit the community of St. Bernard Parish. When Arlene Meraux founded the Meraux Foundation, she asked her niece, Rita, to manage it with a simple guiding principle: to ensure that the land resources that Arlene transferred to the foundation would be used to improve the quality of life in St. Bernard.
The Meraux Foundation’s LSU AgCenter partnerships in St. Bernard Parish include AgMagic on the River, an educational event presented by the LSU AgCenter; the Center for Louisiana Citrus Innovation and Research; the Black Mangrove program in partnership with Chalmette High School and 4-H; and a $150,000 gift to perpetually support local 4-H programs.
The Meraux Foundation has previously supported the LSU AgCenter Livestock Show with a $150,000 gift that established an endowment for supreme champion animals in all six breeding species — beef cattle, dairy, poultry, sheep, goats and swine. This gift represents the single largest donation in the 80-year history of the show.
In the wake of hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020 and their tremendous impact on the Louisiana 4-H Grant Walker Educational Center, the Meraux Foundation stepped up once again with a gift of $25,000 toward rebuilding and restoration efforts. “It was an easy decision for them knowing how many St. Bernard kids experience overnight camping at Camp Grant Walker every year,” said St. Bernard 4-H Agent Lauren Faust. The Louisiana 4-H Foundation announced this year’s Legacy Award at its July 2021 meeting at Docville Farm. Meraux representative and 4-H Foundation trustee Bill Haines recalled the long-standing relationship between 4-H and the Meraux Foundation. “We are very honored to receive this award, and we very much appreciate our years of work with the LSU AgCenter and 4-H,” he said.
Haines shared further that there is a recurring theme Meraux representatives hear every year when St. Bernard kids return home from Camp Grant Walker. They love the overnight camping experience and how it opens their eyes to new opportunities in a new and different environment. “I know that Camp Grant Walker is a special place for so many,” he said, “and it seems even more so to the St. Bernard kids who go there every year.”
Todd Tarifa, 4-H department head, grew up in St. Bernard Parish, and he remembers what the Docville Farm property looked like when he was a child. “I remember when there was just the house, the barn and not much else,” he said. “The work Meraux is doing for the community and the way the farm has grown are amazing! We are so appreciative for all they do for Louisiana 4-H and for the AgCenter.”
When Hurricane Laura reached so far into Louisiana during the 2020 season, many parts of Louisiana that rarely experience hurricane devastation were affected in ways that many considered once-in-a-lifetime. Hurricane Laura made landfall on Aug. 27 and was the 12th named storm, fourth hurricane and the first major hurricane of the record-breaking 2020 hurricane season. Then came Hurricane Delta on Oct. 9, and these areas were devastated once again. Delta was the record-tying fourth named storm of 2020 to make landfall in Louisiana. In total, the 4-H Grant Walker Educational Center was affected with damage to 23 buildings across its 90 acres. “Laura’s impact was mostly wind and tree damage, and with Delta we experienced flooding on some of the highest spaces on our property,” said Christy Bergeron, camp director. Soon after Laura, CLECO employees arrived at Camp Grant Walker to stage energy restoration services for the surrounding region. While on the property, they witnessed the extensive tree devastation firsthand. Thankful to have a partner like the LSU AgCenter and 4-H, CLECO was eager to give back and helped to facilitate over $50,000 of in-kind tree removal services to 4-H Camp Grant Walker. After Laura damaged many of the camp road beds and open green spaces, CLECO helped again by facilitating restoration of several areas across the property.
Cleco Power has a long history of philanthropic involvement across its 24-parish service territory. As a Louisiana company, Cleco Power is committed to improving the quality of life in the communities it serves. Its community investment priorities include education, youth programming, health and wellness, low-income assistance, diversity and causes that Cleco employees support. “They have consistently supported our Louisiana 4-H programs for many years,” said 4-H Program Leader Toby Lepley.