District 4 Operation Clean Sweep removes 240 tons of trash from LaPlace neighborhoods

Published 12:30 am Saturday, October 23, 2021

LAPLACE —Approximately 240 tons of trash were removed from LaPlace neighborhoods during the recent District 4 Operation Clean Sweep, an initiative aimed to address environmental health concerns in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Operation Clean Sweep was held October 18-19 throughout several neighborhoods north of Airline Highway in LaPlace, including Foxwood, Sugar Ridge, New Era, The Grove and the back of Riverlands.

The Clean Sweep is just one example of how Grammy nominated artist Andra Day, the Braveheart Foundation and District 4 Councilwoman Tyra Duhe-Griffin are continuing to work together to provide relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Andra Day first came to St. John the Baptist Parish for a large-scale distribution in September after watching a news report about Hurricane Ida’s impact on LaPlace and surrounding areas. It was always her plan to return to the community and continue serving residents, and she is committed to the region’s recovery for the long haul.

“I want to be able to serve an immediate need but also be holistic toward building up the community again. I think we sometimes forget about the long game. It’s valuable to work with Tyra because she is getting calls from people and hearing their needs. From the outside, you assume people are getting taken care of, but you don’t realize people are waiting weeks and months on insurance and FEMA,” Day said.

Day and Duhe-Griffin also partnered with The Braveheart Foundation to make meaningful change in the community. Braveheart Foundation founder Erica Rogers, a LaPlace native, said it is important to give residents a “dignified recovery” by providing access to the services they deserve and are accustomed to.

Trash pick-up was identified as a significant need in St. John Parish due to adverse environmental impacts and health concerns that could result from rodents, flies and maggots congregating around mounting trash piles.

“Trash pick-up was one of the immediate needs. This is my home, where I was raised. I came back and didn’t see a plan in execution to meet that need,” Rogers said. “Tyra advised us on certain ordinances that the parish has and what we could do to be helpful. We did a community assessment of the areas that still had a lot of debris and garbage.”

Duhe-Griffin expressed a desire to keep St. John Parish beautiful.

“I want to be able to go outside in my district and just take a walk. Our children deserve that. Our citizens deserve that, and I’m just grateful this team is here to give us a better quality of life. This is the kind of progress we need to get back to a sense of normalcy,” Duhe-Griffin said.

It was important to Duhe-Griffin to involve local businesses in Operation Clean Sweep, as these business owners are the ones who live, work and pay taxes in St. John Parish. BLM Trucking, 241 Trucking and D. Lee Trucking enthusiastically offered their support to clean several LaPlace neighborhoods this week.

Supporting local businesses was also at the forefront of a distribution that Day, Duhe-Griffin and Rogers coordinated this past Sunday with support from Dunkin’ Donuts owner Firan Chauhan. Volunteers were out as early as 8 a.m., frying more than 600 pieces of chicken and cooking homemade red beans.

Community members received a hot meal, along with unlimited free lemonade donated by Dunkin’ Donuts. Two hundred St. John residents ages 55 and older also received a $100 micro grant in the form of a gift card. Recipients were encouraged to use the money to shop local and reinvest in the community.

“The idea was to be able to reach an underserved population,” Rogers said. “We all came to a consensus of the elderly and disabled population being the ones most in need. With catastrophe comes a rippling effect in our community, not only mentally, socially, environmentally, but also economically. Together, we came up with an initiative that would allow the elderly residents to get back out into the community and stimulate our economy.”

Council representatives Warren “Bosco” Torres and Tonia Schnyder also assisted during Sunday’s distribution.

Day said it is amazing to see how much impact distributions have, but she is most impressed by the perseverance she sees in the spirits of community members.

“My team and I were moved because people’s outlooks were positive from the day we arrived, and there was deep devastation at that point. I think what inspired me the most about y’all’s community is that people know how to smile. People were still serving and were committed to each other. I have seen progress with trash clean-up and debris removal, but the outlook has always been positive,” Day said.

Duhe-Griffin said there are initiatives are still to come, thanks to Day’s generosity and the hard work of volunteers who won’t rest until the mission is accomplished.
“I’m so grateful that Andra has chosen me to work alongside her,” Duhe-Griffin said. “She gave me hope.”