A New Board is Hoping to Revitalize Downtown Houma

Recently, a new nine-member board created by the Terrebonne Parish Council has begun its mission to revive and revitalize downtown Houma, according to this article from Houmatoday.

 Created earlier this year by the Louisiana State Legislature as a result of a bill introduced by Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, this board has begun to appoint new members, such as Houma’s Kevin Champagne, in its effort to bring more shops, restaurants, and foot traffic to Houma’s potentially vibrant downtown scene. The board, which has yet to have all 9 of its members appointed for their 6-year terms, has a starting budget of about $1 million, and it holds the authority to purchase, repair, and sell property and buildings in downtown Houma in its efforts to inject life into its culture and economy. This board would also have authority within the Houma Restoration District, which is defined by the law as Main and Park avenues from Morgan Street to Grand Caillou Road.

Members of this board will each serve a six-year term without being paid, and these members will be appointed by the Terrebonne Parish Council, Terrebonne Parish President, state lawmakers representing the area, the Chamber of Commerce, the Houma Downtown Development Corporation, and the Houma Historic Preservation District.

In order for Houma’s downtown area to build back up to its full potential after suffering various degrees of detrimental loss from recent Hurricanes, members of the board will have to be determined, spirited, and supplied with an enthusiastic vision of what Main Street could look like in its full economic glory. Luckily, one such advocate for this future was recently appointed by the Terrebonne Parish Council to this cause after he volunteered. Kevin Champagneis the head of MacDonnell Children’s Services, an organization that provides shelter and an array of other programs for youths who come from troubled homes.

Champagne voiced his support for revitalizing downtown Houma by saying, “t​​he whole purpose of the board is for historic preservation and economic development, and those are two things that are important to me. I’m on the chamber, I’m part of the Rotary Club and just invested in the community. I grew up here and I want to make sure we leave something for my children and the community.” When asked what sparked his interest in volunteering to be a member of the downtown revitalization board, Champagne attributed the reason to his being a resident of Houma’s east side, and he wanted to ensure that his portion of the town was represented.

One potentially key milestone in the effort to reshape downtown Houma is the potential deal between the State of Louisiana and Terrebonne Parish to swap Main Street for another road, which would allow the present Main Street to no longer be plagued by heavy amounts of traffic, which according to business owners has dissuaded patrons and shoppers from the area.

The creator of House Bill 780, Rep. Tanner Magee, is an advocate for this approach since it redesigns the traffic and flow of downtown Houma, potentially setting the stage for a comeback. When speaking on this vision, Magee said, “I’m not slouching on what we currently have — I mean, Ida took a toll, but it probably wasn’t all that great before, so I think we need to get it going again. That’s kind of the dream here, to have a vibrant downtown with lots of buildings, lots of diversity, and kind of the people who work and live down here. The idea is to get all these [derelict properties] back into private hands and back into commerce, but if there’s something that’s being stuck, that this entity can buy it, maybe renovate it or even do some innovative ideas like some sort of business incubator.”

Another stakeholder in the future of downtown Houma is Parish Councilwoman Jessica Domangue, who is from Houma. Councilwoman Domangue expressed her excitement by saying, “for us as a government, Terrebonne Parishis so big and Main Street is one little piece of that, and so the focus of government cannot always be on Main Street. It’s going to bring a freshness, a new perspective because let’s be honest with ourselves, we’ve been trying to do the same thing over and over and over for many years and it just hasn’t worked.”

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Bayou Community Foundation Awards Funds to Local Nonprofits

Recently, over thirty nonprofit organizations that provide social services to the communities of Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Grand Isle were awarded grants totaling over $300,000 by the Bayou Community Foundation, according to this feature article from Houma Today.

In total, The Bayou Community Foundation (BCF) awarded $327,100 in grants to 32 nonprofit organizations that have been working diligently in the wake of Hurricane Ida to provide social services to local communities.  These grants come from the Foundation’s 2022 Annual Grants Program, and the awarded grant money is used to fund the distribution of food and medicine, resources for baby supplies and parenting, housing for the homeless and women in crisis, mental health counseling, addiction recovery programs, education and job training for at-risk youth, and plenty of other services that assist residents who were most impacted after Hurricane Ida.

Henry Lafont, the President of the Bayou Community Foundation Henry Lafont spoke on the importance of awarding these grants by saying, “faced with unimaginable challenges in the wake of Hurricane Ida, nonprofit organizations are working harder and shining brighter than ever before. Today, Bayou Community Foundation celebrates the local nonprofits that work tirelessly to help the neediest among us and demonstrate the compassion and resiliency of our unique Bayou community. Thanks to the amazing generosity of our donors, BCF is delighted to fund $327,100 in grants to 32 organizations that are feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, protecting the vulnerable, and making our entire community an even better place to call home.”

This year’s awarding of $327,100 in grants adds to the grand total of $1.97 million that has been distributed across 242 grants since 2013. These grants have been awarded for the past 9 years as a part of the Foundation’s Annual Grants Program. This year, the Program received donations from many individuals, families, and businesses local to Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Jefferson Parishes, including The Callais Family Fund, The Gheens Foundation, and Chevron.

The Public Affairs Manager for Chevron’s Gulf of Mexico Business Unit, Leah Brown, spoke about the business’s donating by saying, “at Chevron, we believe in contributing to the communities where we live and work. We’re proud to support the Bayou Community Foundation and its mission to build and sustain Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, and Grand Isle. We look forward to seeing the positive impact these grants will produce in the near term, as well as what we can continue to accomplish together in the future.”

One specific nonprofit organization that received an award grant was Lifted by Love, an organization that will use its $14,000 grant to help to provide transitional housing for 25 young mothers who are aging out of foster care with their children. Lifted by Love’s executive director Amanda Oden was able to put the organization’s grant award into logistical terms by saying that the BCF “grant will support our current efforts to provide housing for mothers and their babies, and fund our new Diaper Bank to distribute diapers, wipes, and formula and fill basic baby needs that are costly and in short supply.”

In total, 32 organizations received award grants from the Bayou Community Foundation during a ceremony that was held at the Larose Civic Center in July 2022. The full list of award winners can be found here.

The Executive Director of BCF Jennifer Armand talked about the significance of the awarding ceremony, “this is truly the most wonderful day of the year for Bayou Community Foundation as we witness the power of philanthropy at work! With generous gifts to our Grants Fund and Bayou Recovery Fund, donors have opened their hearts and pocketbooks to help sustain these critical nonprofit programs and support our community on our road to recovery. We thank our grantees for their important work and our donors for making today’s grants possible. Giving makes great things happen!”

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2nd Annual Bayou Terrebonne Boucherie to be held in Downtown Houma

There’s simply no event like a proper South Louisiana Boucherie, and this year a local nonprofit is working hard to bring the second annual Bayou Terrebonne Boucherie to downtown Houma, according to HoumaToday.

For the uninitiated, a Boucherie, which is the french term for a butcher’s shop, is a cajun tradition that’s unique to South Louisiana in that it involves a community coming together over a day or weekend to properly prepare, butcher, and cook a large hog in as many ways as possible. What results is a raving good time of making delicious meals out of every part of the pig imaginable: the ultimate barbeque.

Luckily for those living in close proximity to downtown Houma, the Hache Grant Association, a local nonprofit, is organizing the second annual Bayou Terrebonne Boucherie to be held on March 12th from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Other than delicious food to enjoy, the event will also feature a variety of live music performances, a cook-off, the 2nd annual Pedro tournament, and a “bayou-themed competition called the ‘Cajun Cup.” General admission to the event will be free, and all pork is set to be excellently prepared by Bourgeois Meat Market, Cajun Meat Market, and Big Mike’s BBQ Smokehouse.

The “Cajun Cup,” sponsored by GATR Coolers, is an event that sees “locals compete and put their Cajun merit to the test” via a pirogue race, chicken catch, duck call competition, casting competition, 20 penny nail drive, and an axe throw. The event is also being called the Olympic trials of the event with registration fees set at $100.  Hache Grant Association President Noah Lirette said of the cajun equivalent of the Olympic games, “whether you’re participating or just spectating, it’s a lot of fun.”

Taking place at the event will be a white-bean cookoff, sponsored by Richard’s Kitchen Store. The cook-off will see participating teams compete to cook dishes centered around the delicious white navy bean. Interested persons wanting to participate in the white-bean cookoff need only sign up a team of up to four people by messaging theHache Grant Association’s Facebook Page or via email. Team registration can occur up until the day before the Boucherie with registration fees also set at $100.

Music performances for the Bayou Terrebonne Boucherie are set to last throughout the event: beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. DJ Doug Funnie will start the event, serving as the emcee, and then MJ Dardar Music will take the stage from 10-12 p.m, No Posers from 12-2 p.m, the Dream Junkies from 2-4 p.m, Adam Pearce Music from 4-6 p.m, the Tyron Benoit Band from 6-8 p.m, and Nonc Nu & Da Wild Matous will close out the event from 8-10 p.m.

Last year’s inaugural Bayou Terrebonne Boucherie was certainly seen as a successful event for the community, and not just because of the food served or the turnout, but this is because the event also served as a fundraising event to rebuild the historic downtown Houma bandstand. As a result of the first event, the Hache Grant Association was formed with the mission and purpose of “facilitating specific, actionable and measurable revitalization initiatives to enhance Terrebonne Parish.” Association President Noah Lirette told HoumaToday that proceeds from this year’s Boucherie will also benefit such projects.

The Terrebonne Parish Council approved the Hache Grant Association’s construction of the replica bandstand in December 2021. The replica’s recreated design will be based on the appearance of the original bandstand as seen in historical photographs. Though it’s still in the building permit process, the Hache Grant Association plans to soon seek bids for the bandstand’s reconstruction this spring, with the replica being available for public use upon completion.

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BCF Awards Second Round of Grants through Bayou Recovery Fund

Residents in the Houma-Thibodaux area recently received another round of donations through the Bayou Recovery Fund thanks to the Bayou Community Foundation, according to Houma Today.

One week following Hurricane Ida making landfall at Port Fourchon and leaving a detrimental amount of damage in its wake, the Thibodaux-based foundation known as the Bayou Community Foundation for Hurricane Ida Relief has received thousands of donations from all over, resulting in the funding of nearly $1.8 million in grants since September 5, 2021.

Now, it was recently announced that the Bayou Community Foundation has approved a second round of grants and additional funding to be distributed to nonprofits in the affected areas. Officially, nearly $1.3 million in donations will be distributed to Houma and Thibodaux area residents recovering from the Category 4 storm and an additional $1.29 million will be distributed to 17 nonprofits in Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Grand Isle.

The Bayou Community Foundation’s president, Henry Lafont, said the following in a news release regarding the second round of donations and grants being approved for distribution: “Thanks to the compassion and generosity of individual and corporate donors around the country, Bayou Community Foundation has been able to act swiftly and effectively over the past five weeks to fund programs that are filling the most urgent needs of our residents like food, water, and essential supplies. Our local nonprofits are doing amazing work to help the suffering among us.”

Since September 5th, the funds that have been disbursed to nonprofits have helped the workers and volunteers distribute hot meals, nonperishable food items, water, gasoline, clothing, hygiene supplies, cleaning instruments and agents, and much more to residents affected by the storm. In addition to the supplies stemming from the funds, the donations have also helped to secure and provide temporary housing, classroom supplies, educational equipment, and medical programs to the Southeastern Louisiana residents.

When addressing the longevity of such donations, Lafont went on to say, “we know this is just the beginning, though,” Lafont said. “As we turn the corner from relief to recovery, the Bayou Recovery Fund is positioned to help address longer-term needs in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Grand Isle like the housing crisis we now face and the mental health needs that we expect to come.”

In the future, the Bayou Community Fund is looking to raise an additional $10 million for storm recovery efforts. All donations gifted to the Fund are tax-deductible and are used to fund emergency grants to local nonprofits providing direct, critical relief, recovery, and rebuilding services in the aftermath of the hurricane to those most affected in the Bayou Region. Previously, on September 15, 2021- just a week after the fund was initiated, $449,000 in Bayou Recovery Fund Grants were awarded.

As of this second round of grants being announced to several agencies and nonprofits across southeastern Louisiana, several have commented on the announced grants such as the Executive Director of the Lafourche Education Foundation, Paula Rome, who said the following in response to the planned $100,000 grant along with the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence: “with this grant, LEF will be able to help our Lafourche schools that were hardest hit by Hurricane Ida replenish much-needed classroom supplies and equipment for our teachers and students across the parish.”

Similarly, Bob Stewart, Ph.D, Vice President of Friends of Grand Isle said of his organization’s grant, “this grant from the Bayou Community Foundation provides critical relief to our first responders who have so selflessly served Grand Isle in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The Friends of Grand Isle are committed to providing financial relief to our residents and businesses to build a stronger Grand Isle.”

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Terrebonne Parish Sees Double Garbage and Debris pickup in wake of Hurricane Ida

Exactly a month after Terrebonne Parish suffered historic levels of loss due to Hurricane Ida, it was reported by HoumaToday that more than 7,000 tons of household garbage has been picked up across the parish– nearly double the standard amount during that time frame.

This enormous increase in garbage pickup equates to an extraordinary amount of added workload and man-hours put in by sanitation employees who were also citizens of the parish and thus impacted by Hurricane Ida alongside the citizens whose garbage they picked up. The employees that work for Terrebonne Parish’s sanitation contractor, Pelican Waste, faced various challenges in housing, transportation, and other storm-related issues since the Category 4 storm’s August 29 landfall.

The solid waste director of Terrebonne Parish, Clay Naquin, told Parish Council members at the September 29 council meeting that his department “tried everything they could” to get Pelican Waste employees back into the parish following the storm so that cleanup could begin. The “everything” Naquin referred to included providing power generators, temporary housing, and three square meals a day whenever possible to his workers.

Once they were back in the parish, collection crews from multiple contractors went out across the parish to pick up as much commercial, mixed, and debris garbage that they could, despite delays faced along the way. Naquin urged the public’s adherence to FEMA guidelines that indicate how debris should be stored and stacked at the curbside. Similarly, collection crews follow FEMA protocols when it comes to debris collection, and their garbage trucks are usually followed by teams ensuring that such protocols are being followed.

Because of the increase in debris pickup this past month, adhering to FEMA guidelines at both the waste management and resident level is of utmost importance, according to Naquin. He told council members, “if we don’t follow the protocol that FEMA puts out there, we have a chance of losing funding. can tell you right now, we’re probably pushing $6 million-plus in our debris collection, and if we don’t follow this, we have a chance of losing everything.”

Outside of the routine garage pickup, many Terrebonne Parish residents have been bringing their garbage and debris to the parish’s designated drop-off sites. Having citizens haul their own debris and garbage to these sites significantly lessens the workload placed on individual garbage collecting crews. As of the September 29 Terrebonne Parish Council meeting, Naquin reported that 121 tons of vegetation, 2,822 tons of mixed debris, and 5,378 tons of commercial mixed debris have been dropped off at these designated locations.

Naquin also emphasized that a parish-hired contractor, DRC, had picked up 674,167 cubic yards of storm debris across a total of 12,140 loads. He then provided a figure that was given by Governor John Bel Edwards in a recent news conference in which he stated that the state picked up 1 million cubic yards of debris on all state roads affected by the hurricane. Naquin compared this to DRC’s average of 35,000 cubic yards of debris picked up daily, saying “I’m giving those numbers just to show you that this crew, DRC is out there, really working.”

In addition to accruing significant amounts of debris in the wake of Hurricane Ida, Terrebonne Parish saw about 85% of its signage become lost or damaged during the storm. Out of these 17,500 signs, about 5% have been restored and reset, and parish public works director David Rome assured the council that the department is prioritizing signs at the top of the restoration list, due to civil and transportation importance. The restoration list of signs to be reset sees stop signs, followed by street name signs, then yield, and speed limit signs in that sequential order.

Little by little, the various departments and agencies across Terrebonne Parish are putting in the man-hours and effort necessary to help the area “bounce back” from a detrimental storm season, thus offering a small glimmer of hope in these turbulent times.

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Renovated Airplane Serves as Social Space in Houma

Anyone curious about airplanes from mechanics to aspiring pilots can now visit an aviation social scene that is housed in a salvaged, decommissioned jet at the Houma-Terrebonne airport, and it’s all thanks to an air traffic controller who had a vision and renovated said airplane, says an article by Houma Today.

Andy Cook has been a registered Air Traffic Controller with the Federal Aviation Administration since 1988, and after he noticed a Boeing 727 collecting dust in a nearby South Louisiana shipyard for two consecutive years, he decided that it was time to act. Subsequently, Cook struck a deal with the owner to not only move the commercial jet to the Houma-Terrebonne airport but to also renovate and transform it into a communal aviation den.  The end result, a now renovated airplane unlike anything you may have ever seen.

What now stands on the green fields beside the tarmac of HUM, or the Houma-Terrebonne Airport and Industrial Park is a completely “decked-out” Boeing 727 cockpit and first-class cabin that is lined inside and out with New Orleans Hornets iconography and memorabilia as well as other impressive amenities. The former Crescent City NBA team used to use the jet as a charter plane as did the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) and the Charlotte Hornets.

After Cook noticed that the jet was exposed to the elements for two years, he had some idea of the amount of work and effort he would have to contribute in order to turn this “decommissioned scrap” into the impressive piece of Louisiana history that it is today. He told reporters: “I can’t tell you how many muddy buckets of water I’ve dragged out of this thing,” Cook said. “It was a tetanus shot waiting to happen.”

After the water was dispelled from the aircraft, Cook put in dozens of additional man-hours to properly deep-clean, refurbish, and revamp the 727 with new carpeting, air conditioning, speakers, and aesthetic Hornets memorabilia lining the interior as well as a logo for the NBA team wrapping the 40-foot perimeter of the jet itself. Cook even took it a step forward by positioning the plane so that it’s west-facing, giving anyone seated in the cockpit an impressive view of the sunset.

As a result and testament to his hard work, the renovated airplane has started to attract its own brand of visitors. For instance Darryl Christen, a Houma attorney also owns and operates a local flight school, and he will have his enrolled flight students study in the first-class cabin to see the infrastructure and engineering up close. Similarly, Neil Thibodaux, a local pilot and chef known by the Houma community as “Chef Nino” took advantage of the opportunity to see the aviation engineering feat up close, as he had never previously gotten the chance to see a cross-section, or industrially separated, passenger aircraft before.

Thibodeaux said of Cook’s project, “Andy is so brilliant,” Thibodaux said. “It’s a gathering place for aviators and airplane mechanics. My favorite part is the history that this plane brings.” Andy Cook hopes that the plane will inspire any interested parties to learn more about aviation, and in the spirit of that optimistic outlook, Cook leaves the plane unlocked and fully accessible to anyone willing to come by, as long as they have access past the airfield’s gate, saying, “I’ll keep it open and unlocked until something goes missing.”

The Boeing 727 aircraft was initially designed to service smaller airport runways and has only grown since its humble 1960’s beginnings to later become one of the greatest commercial jets in history by 1984. Today, only 40 models of the historic aircraft are still flying around the world, but whether they’re airborne or grounded, it’s safe to assume that none are as impressively striking as the partial model that decorates the lawn of the Houma-Terrebonne Airport.

As it stands today, the once massively popular aircraft that is the Boeing 727 only has 40 still operating and flying in the skies today

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