St. John observes ‘Night Out’ in style

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 7, 2009

By David Vitrano

LAPLACE—On Tuesday, communities across the nation banded together against the unsavory elements as they held block parties in honor of the “National Night Out Against Crime.”

Here, in St. John Parish, the neighborhoods from LaPlace to Reserve to Garyville to Edgard participated in the annual event.

But on Capt. G. Bourgeois St., District 6 School Board Representative Keith Jones threw a bash that was a little different.

For the seventh year in a row, Jones has hosted a party aimed not only at taking a stand against crime but also getting local children excited about the new school year.

According to Jones, because the area is “kind of low-income,” he likes to help out local parents with the annual party, which features school supply giveaways to school-age children. Jones donates a portion of his school board salary to purchase the supplies and gift certificates to Office Depot.

Not surprisingly, Jones’ annual gala hosts a larger percentage of children than the average “Night Out” block party. The music, which could be heard as one wandered up the block to the shindig, reflected the all-ages crowd with a mix that ranged from Michael Jackson to Soulja Boy.

The party atmosphere, befitting the theme of the evening, was occasionally interrupted by moments of social awareness.

Near the start of the affair, Peggy Barnes, mistress of ceremonies for the evening, declared, “This is all about the kids!” before asking the adults presents to each get with a child and impress upon him or her the importance of staying in school.

Far from dampening the spirit of the party, however, such moments seemed to bolster the spirits of all present. The excitement on the faces of the children, many of them students at the new Emily C. Watkins Elementary School, as they jumped about and waved their hands in the air appeared infectious to those around them.

In addition to the music and giveaways, those in attendance—Jones expected about 400 guests for the evening—feasted on jambalaya while the kids jumped on a spacewalk set up out back. The affair even drew a few high-profile guests, with St. John Superintendent Courtney Millet, Councilman Ronnie Smith, a number of school board members and John Gordon from Sen. David Vitter’s office among the attendees.

And by the time the party wound down around 9 p.m., Jones’ intentions of throwing a party with a purpose had clearly been realized.