Rotarians exemplify ‘service above self’ through food distributions in St. John Parish

Published 10:15 am Thursday, September 9, 2021

EDGARD – Rotary International’s motto, “service above self,” was seen in action this week as Rotary members from various clubs from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama banded together to help St. John the Baptist Parish recover from Hurricane Ida.

This afternoon, Rotary members are serving hamburgers, chips and cookies at the Juan Anthony Joseph Park in Edgard. Yesterday, meals were served at the Ezekiel Jackson Park in Garyville, and Tuesday’s meal distribution took place outside the St. John ARC off of Highway 51 in LaPlace.

Rotary Club of LaPlace President Lucien Gauff said rotary clubs from across the region also donated a truckload of supplies including paper towels, diapers, feminine products, portable fans, generator supplies and more.

Gauff said local Rotary members will often collaborate with other clubs to raise money for scholarships. However, Rotary’s capacity for community impact expands much further, especially in times of need.

“It’s not just scholarships that we do. It’s outreach in times like this, when Rotarians just come and serve,” Gauff said. “Earlier this year, we were at an event in City Park where we built tents to send to areas like the Caribbean Islands and Haiti that have been hit by a hurricane. Now, some of these tents might be used in our own backyard because so many people were devastated by Hurricane Ida. It’s unfortunate, but it’s good to know that we have Rotarians throughout our region and throughout the world that care enough to help us.”

Groups participating in this week’s Hurricane Ida relief efforts include Point Clear Rotary Club from Alabama, Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis from Mississippi, and Rotary Club of Slidell, Rotary Club of Slidell Northshore and Rotary Club of Northlake – Mandeville.

Organizer Sharon Newton, representing Slidell, said there were many ways to help, whether Rotarians traveled to St. John Parish or helped coordinate the effort from afar by purchasing supplies and preparing meals.

Rotarians cooked anywhere from 600 to 700 burgers a day in Slidell. The food was then transported to St. John Parish. Rotary Club of LaPlace helped determine the locations to distribute food over the three days to reach as many community members as possible.

Newton said everyone delivering the food noticed recipients were overwhelmingly thankful.

“The good news is, because Rotary is so connected, it’s easy for everyone to be able to work together and coordinate different activities,” Newton said.

It’s important to her to help those impacted by Hurricane Ida because she remembers the kindness shown to her community in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Sixteen years later, she still gets emotional when she thinks about it.

“Just in Slidell alone, we had enough donations to help us rebuild many not for profit buildings over two years. It was wonderful,” Newton said. “Now it’s our time to give back.”

Gordon Taylor, past president of Rotary Club of LaPlace, said he appreciates the support.

“We are a family of Rotarians who care about people in our area, as well as around the nation and world,” Taylor said. “We thank everyone for their support, and please continue to pray for us.”