United Way of St. John looks to year ahead at annual meeting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2012



LAPLACE – With new leadership in place, including a new executive director and various new officers and committee members, the St. John United Way set forth some of their goals for the year at its recent annual membership meeting in LaPlace.

New Executive Director Trista Brazan, who has taken over for retiring Director Dean Torres, said a major focus for 2012 would be a concentration on funding programs for education, as well as growing the agency’s pool of resources within the community.

“We want to grow our campaign and get more people involved who are willing to spend time volunteering with us,” Brazan said. “There are a lot of people who think the United Way is just industry-oriented, but it goes beyond that. We are a small community with a small United Way, but we still do a lot.”

Brazan said one new program the United Way is looking to start up this year is the Imagination Library, an early childhood literacy initiative that targets children from birth to 5-years-old.

The program will kick off in April, and it is open to all residents of St. John the Baptist Parish.

“Participants in the program receive a free age-appropriate book that is delivered free every month,” Brazan said. “Children that are enlisted at birth can receive as many as 60 books through the duration of the program. The goal is to encourage parents and young children to read together.”

Brazan said the United Way will also use 2012 to focus on the agency’s 40th year of operations in St. John Parish.

She said a gala event, in either April or May, is still in the planning stages.

The gala this year will take the place of the St. John United Way’s Top Chef: Cookin’ for a Cause event, which enjoyed a successful first year in 2011.

Brazan said the cook-off event, similar to St. Charles’ annual Battle for the Paddle, came right on the heels of the agency’s annual golf tournament in October, which posed a slight strain for office staff. She said the cook-off will be moved to the spring and will be back in 2013.

“We had a very successful first year, and we want to keep that going,” Brazan said. “We haven’t set a date, but it will be back at San Francisco Plantation.”

The officers named during the annual meeting include President Rhonda Hotard, Vice President Greg Maurin, Treasurer Sharon Kell and Secretary Sheila Butler.

New members of the executive committee include Julia Remondet, Barry Griffin, Carl Pasquarelli, Jaime De La Cruz and Jeremy St. Pierre.