Governor, others cheer Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home recreation upgrade

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, November 29, 2017

RESERVE — The Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home’s new recreational building gives residents an opportunity to relax, spend quality time with family and enjoy crafts and activities at their own leisure.

Completed in August, the new addition was officially unveiled to the community Monday following a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at the Veterans Home, located at 4080 W. Airline Highway in Reserve.

Veterans Home Administrator Brian Fremin, Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Joey Strickland and St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom were among the public officials present for the occasion.

Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Joey Strickland speaks to the crowd Monday in Reserve.

Construction of the new recreational center was prompted by a desire for additional space to meet the needs of the home’s 151 residents, according to staff member Ladaisha Kelson.

“The residents will have more room to do things like arts and crafts, puzzles and chess,” Kelson said. “It’s going to be a place for Veterans to go in and spend time with family.”

The recreation center will open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and lock overnight as a security measure, Kelson said, noting staff members will be present while Veterans are in the building.

With the help of the local community, Veterans Home representatives raised more than $160,000 for completion of the recreational building.

Supporters stand at attention during Monday’s ceremony in Reserve.

Two years ago, Strickland received a call from Edwards, who had heard of the fundraising efforts in Reserve.

As Veterans themselves, the two recognized the importance of improving Veterans facilities across the state and agreed the burden of funding such projects should not fall on the backs of Veterans and staff members.

“One of the first things I called [Strickland] about when he and I were both in office was about this building,” Edwards said.

“I knew how important it was for this War Veterans Home, and I wanted to make sure any money that was raised would go potentially to furnish it or make it nicer, but it was our obligation to build this building.”

Allowing Veterans a place to gather, relax and take part in organized activities is vital to the location’s success, according to Edwards.

“This is a recreational facility, but make no mistake about it; it is an integral part of this War Veterans Home,” Edwards said. “We’re making sure we do all that we can and all that we should do to honor our obligations to veterans.”

Fremin said he’s pleased with the center’s construction, which will contain poker tables and massage chairs when fully furnished and function as a location for veterans to watch movies, socialize and enjoy life.

In addition to benefitting Veterans inside the home, the new building will function as a meeting location for local nonprofit organizations, according to Veterans Home resident Rudy Baker III.

Veterans from the River Region, community supporters and local youth were present for the ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony.

Father John Marse delivered an invocation following opening remarks, and Idelle Burgess read a speech honoring Veterans by reminding attendees of the cost of freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights.

The Marching Pride of Riverside performed the national anthem and Armed Forces Medley during the dedication, while the St. John Young Marines conducted the posting of the colors. Following the ceremony, guests were treated to a reception featuring food courtesy of Atmos Energy and live music from the River Rats.