Neighboring parishes want to join YMCA effort

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2001

JONESVILLE, La. – For Jonesville Mayor Billy Edwards, the wakeup call was when two elementary-age children in his town tested positive for drugs, then admitted to also being sexually active.

Standing in front of more than 30 people who recently gathered to discuss bringing a YMCA to the Miss-Lou, Edwards admitted that he didn’t like saying such things about his town.

For Jonesville Councilwoman Josie Bullitts, just seeing about 300 of her town’s youth crowd into Jonesville Junior High’s un-air-conditioned gym on hot summer days just to have something to do is proof enough that the town needs YMCA programs.

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&uot;It’s about keeping our kids off the streets, giving them something positive to do,&uot; she said. &uot;Our kids are going to jail every day. Let’s look at an alternative to that.&uot;

Miles away in Waterproof, Mayor Mariah Cooper also bemoaned the lack of recreation for her area’s youth. &uot;There is no recreation,&uot; Cooper said. The town has just signed a 50-year lease for the old Waterproof High School, hoping to use the main building for fine arts programs and the gym for recreation – but like Jonesville, it needs resources to make it happen, especially since the building needs extensive renovations.

Such needs are why Jonesville officials have said they will work with a Concordia Parish committee to help bring a YMCA branch to the area – and why Waterproof officials have said they are considering joining in as well.

For months now, a steering committee in Concordia Parish has worked to raise the $150,000 required for the YMCA of Central Louisiana to establish a branch in Concordia. So far, it has gotten a $75,000 pledge from Recreation District No. 1’s board, as well as several smaller donations. If and when $150,000 is raised, YMCA programs could be conducted in an old gym building on Florida Street and a former kindergarten building on Louisiana 15, both in Ferriday.

But in recent months, Catahoula Parish residents, including Jonesville officials, have also joined the committee’s efforts.

So far, it is unclear what Y facilities would be established in Catahoula Parish or what funds Catahoula or Tensas YMCA supporters would have to raise in order to make Y programs a reality in their areas.

For her part, Cooper admitted that she still has to meet with committee Vice-Chairman Alex Promise of Ferriday in the coming weeks to iron out what her area’s role would be in the partnership.

But what supporters in all three parishes do see in common is the fact that more recreation must be provided for the youth of those areas, as well as citizens of all ages. &uot;I say that because we need to look at our senior citizens also, because they need something to do, too,&uot; Bullitts said.

And being affiliated with the YMCA, a nationwide organization with extensive resources and expertise, Promise has said, could help considerably in efforts to establish such programs.

&uot;The way I see it, the more partners we have, the better off we’re going to be,&uot; Cooper said. She added that she and other local recreation supporters are looking at many options, from foundation grants to private donations, to establish recreation programs at the former high school.