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Throw Me Something, Mister!; Arc of St. Charles opens beads, gifts & décor store in Norco

NORCO — Shopping for beads, gifts and décor at the Arc of St. Charles Throw Me Something Mister Mardi Gras Merchandise Store helps secure paid jobs for individuals with special needs in the local community.

St. Charles Parish’s first Mardi Gras store was originally located in Luling. The Arc of St. Charles recently relocated Throw Me Something Mister to a larger and more centralized location at 36 Apple Street in Norco, right next to the beautiful mural showcasing the town’s history.

It all started with a bead recycling enterprise that began in 2009 to expand job opportunities for Arc of St. Charles clients. Individuals with special needs acquire important job training skills as they organize and package donated Mardi Gras beads for resale. Many of these beads are purchased in 30-pound sacks to be used in local parades.

While a bead donation bin is located right outside the store, customers who venture inside the cheery purple, yellow and green building will find a shopping experience that extends far beyond Mardi Gras beads, trinkets and second line umbrellas.

Seasonal gifts, party supplies, duffel bags, backpacks, glassware, garden flags, table runners, decorative Yeti cups, shot glasses and Louisiana inspired clothing are among the treasures that can be found at Throw Me Something Mister.

Local officials, Arc representatives and community members celebrated the opening of the store with a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday. Following a prayer by past Arc of St. Charles president Donnie Hills and a rendition of the National Anthem sung by Matthew and Joseph Guichard, speakers reflected on the value the store will add to the Norco community.

“We are so blessed as St. Charles Parish residents to have the Arc and to have so many people who are so passionately involved in the Arc, which provides a great service to our community and a great service to the folks in the community that are special needs,” said St. Charles Parish President Matt Jewell. “You can see the passion that has gone into this.”

Stephen Weber, president of the Norco Civic Association, has watched the Arc prepare for the opening of the store throughout the past year. He said it fits right in with the revitalization of Apple Street, which will also include a town square plaza and a veterans memorial. However, the purpose of the Throw Me Something Mister store is what makes it most valuable to the community.

“Those who know me from my days at Destrehan High School know that I believe our most important population are our special needs kids. This is such a great addition to our community, and this area is just going to get even better,” Weber said.

Dennis “Black” Roussel, president of the Arc of St. Charles Board of Directors, first learned of the Arc while working at Valero more than 16 years ago. Every moment spent helping the clients find their place in this world has been precious, and Roussel is confident the new store will only bring more opportunities.

In addition to Throw Me Something Mister, the Arc of St. Charles operates the Cajun Village Thrift Store in Luling to link special needs individuals with retail job opportunities.

“These people are citizens now because of the Arc. They are respected and they are included in our society. That’s what we work towards, getting them into the community and getting them accepted,” Roussel said.

Human resources coordinator Arleen Friloux is a proud Arc of St. Charles parent. She’d never heard of the organization until her son was born with special needs almost 43 years ago. Over the years, her son has benefitted from interaction with the other individuals and the staff.

“I was more than ready to serve. I was on the board for about 30 years, and now I’ve worked for about 18,” Friloux said. With tears in her eyes, she added, “You find your passion. I didn’t have one until my son was born, and now you know what my passion is.”

Aside from vocational opportunities, the Arc of St. Charles also offers Day Habilitation service with extensive supervision and assistance with daily needs. Residential services including family support services, long term personal care, respite care and supervised independent living are also offered.

For more information, visit arcofstcharles.com.