The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation celebrates the seventh anniversary of its Board of Directors this month. In September 2011, Bill Haines and Chris Haines joined Rita Gue, Floyd Gue, and Sidney Torres, III on the Foundation’s board, forming the current board composition.
“I’m extremely proud of the work this board has done over the past seven years,” said Gue, who was appointed to the board by the private nonprofit organization’s founder, her aunt, Arlene Meraux. “Each year, we do more and more to advance Aunt Arlene’s vision and fulfill our mission of improving the quality of life in St. Bernard Parish.”
The Foundation is implementing a dynamic strategy focused on five core program areas: Education, Environment, Land Strategies, Community Building, and Special Projects.
With land as its chief asset, the Meraux Foundation has gifted property in a highly-strategic manner to support much-needed amenities in the parish, including the hospital, a sheriff’s sub station, an elementary school, a nature center, a bike path, and much more. The Foundation has also sought to attract business to the parish, like Walmart and Tractor Supply, providing retail, jobs, and tax revenue.
Adopting a creative placemaking approach, the Foundation has established an arts campus on St. Claude Ave. in Arabi. Similarly, the Foundation has designated over 130 acres of Docville, a historic property in Violet, as an educational learning center that hosts art series, workshops, and a number of community events, such as the upcoming Blues, Brews + BBQ festival on Oct. 6.
“We believe one of our most valuable roles is as a collaborator and facilitator, bringing people and groups together around issues that are important to our community,” said Gue.
To provide educational opportunities to St. Bernard Parish youth, the Foundation awards annually 50 scholarships based on academic achievement, four based on artistic accomplishment, and six for vocational-technical school. To date, the Foundation has awarded more than 780 scholarships valued at some $2.38 million.
Over the past seven years, the Foundation has been placing greater and greater emphasis on environmental programs. Just last fall, it hired Blaise Pezold as Coastal and Environmental Program Manager to spearhead the nonprofit’s ever-expanding plans to protect, preserve, and restore St. Bernard Parish’s rapidly disappearing coast.
The Foundation also plays a leadership role in some of the parish’s signature initiatives, including the Mississippi River Delta Educational Initiative, Working on the Water, and Startup St. Bernard.