Rotary Club of LaPlace banquet celebrates community leaders

Published 12:05 am Saturday, July 2, 2022

LAPLACE — The Rotary Club of LaPlace held its annual banquet Tuesday night to celebrate the movers and shakers in the community who have upheld the motto “service above self.”

Newly installed Rotary president Demetria Carter presented the Citizen of the Decade Award to Pastor Neil Bernard of New Wine Christian Fellowship in LaPlace.

Bernard’s numerous good deeds in the community include steering Hurricane Ida rebuilding efforts as chair of the St. John Long Term Recovery Group.

Bernard shared that he is inspired by his wife of 39 years, Angela, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who is credited with saying, “Anyone can be great because anyone can serve.” His journey to becoming the hands and feet of Jesus Christ was also inspired by his mother, Rhea Bernard. Despite becoming a widow at the young age of 45, Rhea Bernard kept a positive outlook and always devoted herself to helping others.

Rotary member Ronny Michel shared the history of the Stephanie Wilking Outstanding Youth Award, named after a young girl in the community who voluntarily raised money to purchase bulletproof vests for the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office. Wilking tragically passed away from meningitis at only 17 years old, but her legacy lives on through the annual outstanding youth award.

This year’s Stephanie Wilking award recipient was Adison Cooper, a recent graduate of East St. John/the STEM Magnet Program who persevered despite the unexpected loss of her mother. Finalists for the Stephanie Wilking Award were Jason August, Jaycee Bennett and Jake Jeansion.

August and Bennett were present at Tuesday’s banquet, and they received a special surprise when Rotary member Robert Tamplain split his $200 50/50 raffle winnings between them.

Sheriff Mike Tregre honored Sean Michael Eppinette, a young man who went out of his way to rescue others from flooded streets during the height of Hurricane Ida. Tregre also presented the Delton Arceneux Award to Detective Keniel Henry, who shared his story of journeying to America from Jamaica and beginning a tradition of feeding the homeless each year.

Sylvia Taylor received the Rotary Club of LaPlace Rookie of the Year Award, while new president Demetria Carter received the Rotarian of the Year Award.

Due to changes in the Rotary Club of LaPlace Board for 2022-2023, elections will take place for remaining openings, and installation of officers will take place at an upcoming meeting.

The following Board members for 2020-2022 were presented with gifts: Lucien Gauff, Denise Burrell, Ronny Michel, Demetria Carter, Robert Tamplain, Felicia Feist, Artis Williams, Gordon Taylor and Michael Day.

The next membership meeting will take place on Tuesday, July 12.

Robbie Tomeny served as mistress of ceremony during the banquet, which opened with an invocation by Pastor Donald Rixner Jr., the Pledge of Allegiance led by Detective Keniel Henry, and the Rotary “Four-Way-Test” led by Deborah Smith.

The Blessing of the Food led by Betty Martin, and Cheryl Millet gave the history of Rotary.