Helping St. James Parish residents get fit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2001


PHOTOS: Nick Cambre, 21, a marketing major at Nicholls State University and a resident of Paulina, works out at the St. James Parish Fitness Center. (Staff Photos by Leonard Gray) LUTCHER – Looking for a place to work out with safe equipment and constant supervision, but you’re in the Lutchern /Gramercy area? St. James Parish has you in mind. With it’s St. James Fitness Center, the parish’s recreation department offers a chance for people to pump iron, learn aerobics and use other exercise equipment to keep in trim. Recreation director Dennis Roussel said the idea came a few years ago after private clubs struggled unsuccessfully to stay in business. “People went to Parish President Dale Hymel because they needed something close by without having to travel far.” In May 1997, the parish opened the doors of its own, behind Credit Merchandise, next to Veron Supermarket and almost across Main Street from Lutcher High School. The roomy facility formerly housed the grain inspector’s office. There, for $20 a month, a person can enjoy many fitness center benefits without traveling far to reach them. Three months cost $50 and six months cost $95, Roussel added, and members must be at least 16 years old. A lot of the equipment came from The Firm, a now-closed LaPlace health club, and others from the old River Region Hospital in Vacherie, Roussel said. Every weekday at 9 a.m., a women’s aerobics class is conducted by Patty Acosta of Gramercy, with another class at 6 p.m. During the day, people drop by for their workouts, before and after work. Athletes from Lutcher High School come over as well, as do local police officers and deputies. “We try to give a good rate to the police department,” added Brent Dicharry, East Bank recreation coordinator. Senior citizens also have their own benefits, and up to 30 at a time will come in twice weekly for aerobics classes. A separate exercise room for women is also available. The center averages 100 members, and the absence of long-term financial commitment makes it attractive, Roussel continued. The spacious center also doubles as the parish recreation office and storage area, with some rooms set aside to hold baseball and softball equipment. The fitness center is but one feature of St. James Parish’s innovative recreation deparment, which also includes walking tracks and fishing ponds. “Almost every park has a walking track,” Roussel said. The St. James Fitness Center, 1961 W. Main St., Lutcher, is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday; and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.