Men of Our Community: New nonprofit unifies River Region with focus on youth

Published 12:06 am Saturday, February 24, 2018

LAPLACE — Knowing it takes a village to raise a child, members of the new nonprofit group Men of Our Community are investing in the future of the River Parishes by providing entertainment and educational opportunities to local youth.

The fledgling organization started with St. John the Baptist Parish native Tharun Anderson’s idea to bring the community together for a movie night at the LaPlace Cinema 5.

While listening to the radio, Anderson was inspired by hearing the story of a Mississippi woman who rented out a theater for a youth-focused movie night.

Anderson reached out to some childhood friends, who were like-minded men invested in improving the quality of life in St. John, St. Charles and St. James parishes.

Men of Our Community members pose for a picture after renting out a LaPlace theater Feb. 17 for local children to enjoy a free screening of Marvel’s Black Panther.

They reminisced about the lack of recreational activities available when they were growing up.

On Feb. 17, Men of Our Community rented out one of the LaPlace theaters and treated 150 boys and girls and their families to complimentary concessions and a showing of the new Marvel film Black Panther.

Annalisa Acosta, 17, and her brother, Luis, 15, were among those who attended the movie night.

The siblings said the night was filled with friends, amicable talk and laughter.

“There were no problems,” Annalisa said. “I think it’s important to show that we can come together as a community and be humble and kind to each other.”

Luis said he appreciated Men of Our Community organizing the event.

“I liked the way they treated us,” Luis said. “We didn’t have to pay for anything. I think it shows the young age group that they care about us.”

Expenses totaled more than $1,500 and were paid for by the following members: Anderson, Ali Burl III, Brandon Mason, Steven Perrilloux, Dartania Johnson, Demond Bell, Desmond Davis, Rance Scott, Romell Anthony, Corey Brown, Jarrod McClain, Quentin Green, Marques Exum, Jermaine Roussell, Derrick Johnson, Levar Gauthier, Romond Taylor, Kenric Nickelson, Corey Hutchinson and Glenn Goudia.

Approximately 150 community members turn out for the Feb. 17 movie night. The film screening was the first of many youth-based activities to come, according to M.O.O.C. members.

Hutchinson said the most memorable aspect of the night was hearing the crowd’s reaction to everything happening on screen, from excited clapping to booing at the villains.

Seeing the power of the community uniting as one lit a fire under organizers and drove the decision to form a service organization, Hutchinson said, adding Men of Our Community was officially registered as a nonprofit this week.

“We got a great response from the movie night and had a lot of people thank us for what we are doing for the community,” Hutchinson said.

“We plan on moving it forward to bring positivity to the Parish, and we hope it becomes infectious to other communities.

It’s all about the kids and giving back, getting involved with the schools and putting on different events.”

The organization is still starting up, but there are plans to host monthly events and fundraisers, according to Hutchinson.

Ideas include renting out LaPlace Skate Center for children, attending Pelicans basketball games, selling benefit lunches, partaking in clean sweeps, giving away Mother’s Day baskets and organizing activities to reward students with solid GPAs.

“It’s good to get kids out of the house and get them away from the PlayStations and phones,” Hutchinson said.

Burl said the organization plans to continue working with local businesses.

“We can help our Parish businesses and recreational department flourish as a whole by getting them to help with sponsoring,” Burl said. “We’ll see community dollars as a result.”

Along with movie night planning came a consensus to be trailblazers in creating change by taking a stance as positive role models for local youth, Burl said.

Forming Men of Our Community coincided with member Jarrod McClain’s plans to begin his own nonprofit to provide activities for youth.

Working at a barbershop and attending PTA meetings, McClain said he sees a lot of single mothers and has been asked more than once to give guidance to children without father figures in their lives.

Parental involvement in Men of Our Community activities is encouraged, members said.

All are invited to take part in activities, regardless of race, religion, origin or other criteria, according to Anderson, and mothers are welcome to volunteer. A website and bank account for donations are in the works. To support Men of Our Community, connect with Anderson and other members on Facebook.