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Jindal helps open Dufresne center

By Kimberly Hopson

LULING – Friends and family members of community figures Edward A. Dufresne Sr. and Jr. were moved to tears during the ribbon cutting for the new namesake Edward A. Dufresne Community Center.
Gov. Bobby Jindal attended the event, along St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre, St. Charles Parish Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto and various other parish officials. Fr. Bernard C. Francis of Our Lady of The Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church provided the opening and closing prayer.
The luxurious new $10.5 million facility is the first of its kind in the parish, and
features 30,000 total square feet of multifunctional space, including a 13,900 square-foot gymnasium and a 2,100 square-foot meeting room space, which can be used for private and non-profit events. Other amenities include a full-service commercial kitchen, concession stand and office space for parish departments, such as Parks and Recreation, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and Community Services.
Debra Dufresne Vial expounded on the legacies of the two community pillars. Vial said her father, Edward Jr., had always envisioned a centrally-located community center that would be ideal for the parish.
“While my grandfather was a pioneer
in agriculture, my father was the visionary. He was always thinking about what could be done for
our community that would have a positive impact. This type of community facility was his final vision — a place where citizens could come together and celebrate, meet and enjoy family, a place where we could plan the future of our parish or rebuild after disasters, a place that could serve to unite us all,” she said.
The facility also features storm protection measures: the building is made to withstand 130 mph winds and is powered by a backup generator. It provides an indoor climate-controlled staging area for future evacuation events and will be used as a temporary shelter in certain emergencies and post-disaster recovery efforts. Holly Fonseca, St. Charles Parish grants officer and project manager, said the facility addresses problems that arose during previous evacuations of 1,100 residents in ancipation of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, such as lack of shower, restroom and kitchen facilities and power outages.
“Through the challenges that we faced in that experience, multiple parish needs were identified. The community center is the answer to all of the disaster response and recovery needs that were identified and many more,” said Fonseca.