Promoting the people and rich culture of Lafayette, the gateway to South Louisiana and the region known as "Acadiana."
Brett Bayard of Kiwanis Club of Lafayette on the Rewards For Reading Program
Brett Bayard, of the Kiwanis Club of Lafayette, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss the Rewards for Reading Program in Lafayette LA. The mission of all Kiwanis clubs is to make the lives of children better.
Kiwanis partnered with the Lafayette Parish Public School System and 24 of its Elementary Schools to launch the Reading for Rewards Program. The goal is to inspire and excite our youngest students to read so that they can learn to love reading, thus do better in school and build a lifelong habit of reading.
Kickstarted by a $2500 grant from Home Bank, $1,000 from Postlethwaite & Netterville CPA's, and a great deal of financial assistance from Kiwanis members, the program has gotten off to a successful start.
Students earn points by participating in the school system's Accelerated Reader (AR) program to become eligible for prizes. They earn one raffle ticket every nine weeks as they meet their AR goal, which goal is individualized and based upon each student's reading level. Students can earn further raffle tickets by exceeding their goals.
Prizes will be awarded in person at the elementary schools throughout May 2021, beginning May 12th at Ernest Gallet Elementary. Prizes being awarded by Kiwanis members at each school include two bikes, four Razer scooters, and various goodie bags being provided by UL-Lafayette, Cox, Lafayette Parish library, and more. This is the first year of Reading for Rewards and the Kiwanis Club of Lafayette plans to build upon the program and continue encouraging our youngest to read.
Brett Bayard, Kiwanis Club of Lafayette member, and Paula Graffeo, J. Wallace James Elementary librarian, pose with two bikes that will be raffled off in May 2021 in the Rewards for Reading Program.
Rewards for Reading was inspired by a similar program created in 2006 by the Dawn Busters Kiwanis in Metairie, LA. Their program has grown tremendously since its early days and the club has seen how the rewards offered to young students have directly and positively improved educational outcomes.
Studies show that children who cannot read on grade level by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Third grade is a crucial time in a child’s education as students transition from learning to read, to reading to learn. It is in our community's best interest to support programs such as Rewards for Reading and we thank Kiwanis Club of Lafayette for launching this program.
Our interview included heartwarming stories, including how hard it has been to find enough bikes in retail stores to meet the needs for Rewards for Reading prizes. Brett recalled how he and other Kiwanis members went from store to store, buying one bike at a time at first as the stores experienced a shortage of bikes; the COVID shutdown turned bikes into a precious commodity and for a time, almost impossible to find.
Anecdotal evidence of the popularity and early success of the Reading for Rewards program in our Lafayette public elementary schools continues to mount. Members have heard stories of kids reading books as fast as they can get their hands on them; one student even gave up his video game time to read more books! Another anecdote was of a five-year-old who is reading more than his high school-age siblings.
Kiwanis members speak of "Kiwanis Moments" when they realize the joy they experience by helping children through their clubs' activities. Kiwanis programs involving interacttion with local students include Shaping Academic Resources for Kids ("SPARK"), Positive Lifestyle Activity for Youth ("PLAY"), the Healthy Living Club. Brett shared that his own meaningful Kiwanis Moment occurred when he took a young student shopping for Christmas gifts as a part of th...
Kergan Bros. Sonic’s Ted Kergan and Gary Wilkerson Discuss Effect of COVID on Service Industry
Ted Kergan, CEO of Kergan Brothers Sonic, along with the company’s President, Gary Wilkerson, joined Discover Lafayette to talk about the current difficulties the service industry is having in employing an adequate work staff as we emerge from the COVID shutdown in 2021. Business is up 50% over last year and meeting the workforce demand is their current #1 challenge.
As Kergan says, "It is a perfect storm. It's hard to find people whose financial interests are best served by going to work. After the first of the year in most years, people get their income tax refunds so they have some free money. In this case, the government released stimulus checks which turned out to be $1,400.00 per person in each household.....one of our employees came in and said his family had $10,000 in the bank. Once people got that big amount of money, they didn't want to go to work but they did want to go out and spend. It's not just our business that has been impacted, it's every single business." Wilkerson further explained, "This started last year, with the stimulus checks. Over a year, you could stay home and make $40,000 not to work. It has snowballed at this point."
The industry's supply chain has also been heavily impacted worldwide, compounding their ability to offer basic items people expect when food is ordered. Kergan explained, "As an example, we've had a heck of a problem finding straws. Specifically, our straws come from China and they're in a container ship in Long Beach CA. We literally can not get our straws out of the container ship because, in Long Beach, every longshoreman went on vacation when they received their stimulus checks. Literally every one of them!!"
With over 60 Sonic Locations across Central and South Louisiana, Kergan Bros. is one of Sonic’s most successful franchisees in the U. S and they focus on four main markets: Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Alexandria. With a workforce in place of about 2,000 people on any given day, Kergan Bros. Sonic actually has about 3,000 active employees, just as they have in past years, and offers a fun and quirky place to work where the employees are treated as family.
"We think our employees will never treat our customers better than we treat our employees. We look at our team members as our customers. Our challenge every day is to find a way to treat them with love, as we are all children of God and deserve to be treated that way. We treat each team member with love and respect. They mirror that with our customers out on the job."
The issue at hand is that as the stimulus dollars hit the market, people now have money in their pockets and they are running out to spend the money. There is a great pent-up demand. Everyone's sales have gone through the roof. As Ted Kergan said, "We have the same number of employees we had last year. But business exploded so quickly in each segment that everyone needed more employees to handle the additional business." This increased workforce need is the issue Kergan Bros. Sonic is struggling to meet. (As an aside, we spoke with Jimmy Guidry, owner of Hub City Diner, who shared that he is experiencing more business right now than he ever has....in the history of his restaurant.)
When asked to give his thoughts on raising the minimum wage and its impact on the labor force, Kergan said, "Because of the tight labor market, the market is driving the minimum wage higher, faster than legislation is. So in states like AZ and CA, where they've enacted the minimum wage, that's a stairstep procedure over several years. The reality is, because of the tight labor market, we have always gone into a market and looked at our competitors' wages and paid more. We're not interested in the minimum or the average employee, we're interested in the best people. Years ago,
Dan Jurek – Licensed Marital Counselor, Guided by his Franciscan Spirituality, on How People are Coping with Today’s (COVID) Challenges
Dan Jurek, Licensed Professional Counselor and Marriage and Family Specialist, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss how the COVID shutdown has impacted individuals, couples, and families. Dan specializes in couples counseling.
Dan has more than 35 years of experience in adult counseling, and marriage and couples counseling, having studied at Franciscan University in Steubenville OH and earning a Masters in Catholic theology. His practice is guided by his Franciscan spirituality, following Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.
He has utilized his experience to help all age groups in our community, having first moved here in 1990 at the urging of St. Thomas More High School's Mike Keith who recruited him to work as Campus Minister. He also worked with Father Hampton Davis with the campus ministry on UL - Lafayette's campus. He received a second master's at Holy Cross in New Orleans and was licensed as a professional counselor in 2003.
Dan started Pax Renewal Center in Lafayette almost two decades ago, as he realized that counseling services were just as vital to a person’s health as exercise and nutrition. Cognizant that some people can't afford to counsel, Pax offers graduate students' services who work under Dan's tutelage, thereby offering counseling at a greatly reduced rate.
The COVID shutdown hit Pax Renewal Center and other area counselors just as it did other sectors. Things slowed down dramatically at first and then picked up again last September. Dan learned quickly that Zoom calls are just not as good as in-person sessions.
"Overwhelm" has been what we have all felt according to Dan, and when you stack stresses on top of each other, "The strongest person can only carry so much weight!" Families were impacted from all angles; the respite that parents had enjoyed when their children were in school or day care evaporated overnight. The fear of COVID, Mom and Dad working from home or looking for work, and the pressing need to buy computer equipment and become IT experts so as to manage online work and school stressed even the healthiest families. For couples who were already strained, who were confined at home together with no where to go, it all amped up energy in an unhealthy way.
"It broke my heart to work with families that experienced abusive situations as it all escalated. Things can quickly move from emotional abuse to physical abuse. Kids who weren't able to attend school, getting that one square meal a day that school provided and having the opportunity to get out of their house to a safe place, their refuge was taken from them. Parents couldn't protect their kids from abuse."
As September 2020 rolled around and the world opened up a bit, couples therapy began anew online. Dan noted while Zoom "works," you had couples who weren't getting along having to sit shoulder to shoulder in an uncomfortable situation. It is also difficult for the therapist to pick up on important body language that is occurring from the chest down that is not visible on a Zoom call, such as shaking legs, clenched fists.
Use of substances rose, as have other addictive behaviors such as over/under eating, process addictions such as overuse of internet and pornography, and of course binge watching of shows on Netflix and other outlets. Rather than dealing with family or problems, people would numb out in front of the computer or television. So the pain remained.
Calling a counselor is one of the most courageous things a person can do. Calling someone and trusting them to help you feel better is typically a result of "inspiration or desperation," according to Dan. But as they present, people are typically honest about the pain they feel and share universal symptoms of tra...
Elizabeth Brooks, Executive Director of Moncus Park, Making Dreams Come True
Elizabeth Brooks, Executive Director of Moncus Park, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss construction underway at the park. Much has happened since our first interview with EB in 2017, and as their website, moncuspark.org/the-park/ says, the park is well on its way to becoming a world-class central park for all of Acadiana to enjoy! The park is slated to open to the public Thanksgiving 2021.
Elizabeth, affectionately known as "EB," gained local renown in 2005 when she was a student at UL – Lafayette. She and her friend, Danica Adams (the last person to live on the horse farm), learned that the 100 acre UL Horse farm tract was threatened by a potential sale by the university to a commercial developer. Unable to accept that this treasure in the middle of Lafayette could possibly ever become just another strip mall, the two launched a successful community-wide campaign to save the property; thousands of local residents became involved, aided by the rise of social media during that same time.
After the horse farm was 'saved,' EB left Lafayette to earn graduate degrees in Community & Regional Planning as well as Urban Design earned from UT in Austin. She noted how she had never realized that urban planning was even a career option until she met Mike Hollier of LCG's Planning Department when she was working to save the horse farm space.
EB's passion is in seeing a city crafted to maximize the ultimate quality of life and she said, "The impact of the built environment and infrastructure on people's quality of life and day-to-day experiences is something we should take more control over and strive to be world-class. It doesn't just happen." As an example she noted, "Some of the streetscapes we have built (here in Lafayette) are inhospitable."
Elizabeth Brooks' passion is in seeing a city crafted to maximize the ultimate quality of life and she said, "The impact of the built environment and infrastructure on people's quality of life and day-to-day experiences is something we should take more control over and strive to be world-class. It doesn't just happen."
It turns out that many other people value quality of life here too. EB spoke of the momentum that was gained during the Save the Horse Farm campaign. "We valued harnessing that same energy to create the master plan. We hired a firm to create the master plan that didn't have a preconceived notion of what the park should be, one that would listen to the people. People felt heard. It was empowering to be able to shape our community."
The site of Moncus Park is long and narrow and is one of the old "long lots" granted once Lafayette was settled. It is very quiet once you enter, as little of the land fronts onto Johnston Street. While it made little sense to utilize the space for commercial development, it is a wonderful place for a park with its live oak trees and ravines; the master plan focuses on honoring the beautiful and natural features while enhancing the topography by adding a new four-acre lake and hilly areas.
$60 million is the projected amount needed to be raised to fully realize the goal of making Moncus Park a world-class facility. A future site to host weddings, music, and community events, as well as a planned botanical garden, Louisiana-themed playgrounds and interactive splash pad, a Treehouse Masters treehouse, amphitheatre, Veterans Memorial, dog park, and promenade (the park's main walking and jogging trail offering soft surfaces kind to runners) all cost money. And except for the $6.8 million paid by the City of Lafayette to purchase the ground from UL-Lafayette, all is being funded via private donors.
The late Jim Moncus was the first person EB called upon for financial support. She reminisced about his generosity, saying,
Rex Moroux – Scout Real Estate
Rex Moroux, a commercial sales and leasing agent with Scout Real Estate Company, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss the commercial real estate climate in Acadiana in early 2021.
Rex began his real estate career at Coldwell Banker Real Estate and in the fall of 2018, joined Scout Real Estate, a firm headed up by his mentor, the late Hammy Davis, along with Jeff Landry and Chad Ortte. Previously he had toured and recorded as a professional musician throughout the U. S. and Europe.
Things have completely changed in Rex's life since our first interview in 2018 when he was about to appear as a guest on Jeopardy, one of the only people from our region ever to achieve such an opportunity. One of the most important people in his life, Hammy Davis, passed away in October 2020 from Stage 4 brain cancer. "Hammy was the most important person in my life outside of my family...on so many levels, not just professionally. He was the greatest guy I have ever known. He was how I hope to be; if I can walk the world like him, I think I will have won."
One of the most important people in Rex Moroux's life was his mentor, Hammy Davis, who passed away from Stage 4 brain cancer in October 2020. "Hammy was the most important person in my life outside of my family...on so many levels, not just professionally. He was the greatest guy I have ever known. He was how I hope to be; if I can walk the world like him, I think I will have won."
Yet, life does go on and Hammy's tutelage has served Rex well. While Rex had never uttered the words "commercial real estate" before a fortuitous lunch with Hammy back in 2012, he now enjoys his career with Scout Real Estate. In fact, he has never been busier than he is now, even given the effects of COVID on the economy.
Scout Real Estate handles all forms of property management, from asset management, financial consulting services, maintenance oversight of properties, or any other issues facing owner/sellers of commercial real estate properties. Rex focuses on the brokerage side of the business, finding the right buyers and sellers for a transaction.
Lifelong connections help in the real estate business and Rex spoke of one such client and friend, VieMed owner Casey Hoyt, whom he helped along with partner Michael Moore in the purchase of the Talos Energy (formerly Stone Energy) building on Kaliste Saloom Road. He also represents families who inherit properties and don't know the value or best use of real estate which may have been in the family for decades. Along with his cohorts at Scout Real Estate, Rex offers professional property consulting services on a one-time basis or a longer-term arrangements.
We spoke of the difference between residential and commercial real estate transactions, with due diligence being the key difference. A commercial deal is approached totally differently from the purchase of a home, with much more financial complexity and time needed to study, inspect and investigate all aspects of the property before closing.
A commercial real estate broker can take the burden off a buyer or seller insofar as time and effort is involved in closing a deal. Brokers also offer expertise in advising on 1031 Exchanges and ensuring that a client's wealth is protected while minimizing tax burdens. A broker acting as an advocate for their client can prevent eager clients from committing to a deal before confirming it is right for their particular situation.
One 'Hammyism' that Rex shared was to "Go to work every day as if you've got $100 grand in your pocket. Meaning that if you're obsessed with the commission, you won't do right by your client. You have to be able to tell them that this is no good. You have to take the long view.
Ashley Mudd – Building Community Leaders Through Leadership Institute of Acadiana
Ashley Mudd, Executive Director of the Leadership Institute of Acadiana, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss her mission to build leaders in our community. Her quest is to ensure that everyone, regardless of background or industry, has the opportunity and support needed to find their voice and passion as a community leader.
The Leadership Institute of Acadiana ("LIA") is the organization that hosts the Leadership Lafayette and Lafayette Junior Leadership programs, as well as other programs to engage people who are unable to commit to a year of engagement.
Since 1987, Leadership Lafayette operated under the auspices of the former Lafayette Chamber of Commerce which is now known as One Acadiana. Ashley credited former Chamber President Rob Guidry for having the foresight to start the program after hearing of it in his travels networking with other chamber execs around the U. S. The first class, officially named "Class One," calls themselves the "premier class." Many prominent leaders, such as Joey Durel, former Parish President of Lafayette Parish, credit Leadership Lafayette for spurring them onto greater civic and government engagement. (Read more about his story here.)
Joey Durel, former Lafayette City-Parish President credits Leadership Lafayette for his desire to run for mayor. Once his children were transitioning out of their home, Joey had more time for civic engagement and made the leap into elected office.
According to the organization's website, "At LIA, our goal is to provide experiential, collaborative leadership training programs and initiatives that offer local leaders access to the skills, knowledge and ongoing support they need to impact our community and influence the future of our region.' In practice they do this and so much more; they immerse program participants in eleven sessions during their year of engagement as they learn about our community's opportunities and challenges in education, the economy, the non-profit sector, government, incarcerated individuals, and healthcare. People forge lifelong friendships and bring about real change.
Program tuition is $2000 to participate in Leadership Lafayette, yet LIA will provide scholarships up to one-half of tuition for deserving recipients. They encourage participation from all industries, including police officers, teachers, and other fields outside of the stereotypical banker, lawyer, or business owner. Participants of all ages are welcome and encouraged; Ashley stressed that the wider the range of ages and industries, the more successful the class will be in experiencing the full benefit of Leadership Lafayette.
Past Leadership Lafayette graduates, such as Veronica Williams, Clerk of the Lafayette City and Parish Councils, assist in identifying boards and commissions that willing volunteers can join. LIA actively works to help people engage in civic endeavors and make a difference in the community.
SIMSOC ("Simulated Society") is a standard-bearer of the Leadership Lafayette experience. SIMSOC is a simulation of real society where participants learn the issues and challenges of creating sustainable societies and communities. At times it can be humorous as people of higher socioeconomic status are placed in a simulated place of low ranking in a room with no air conditioning as they navigate methods of survival. Brent Henley of The Pyramid Group has facilitated SIMSOC since the beginning of the program and still pulls out great results as participants learn empathy and leadership skills from the exercise.
Brent Henley of the Pyramid Group leading SIMSOC during Leadership Lafayette's program on April 9, 2021, at Wonderland Performing Arts in Lafayette.
LIA also offers programming for people who are no...
Inspiring guest. Excellent interview skills.
I enjoy listening and really like the guest. Great for Lafayette.
Unlike other podcasts, Jan often features guest speakers/ social media experts AND incredible storytellers. Jan enjoys bringing in a multitude of different voices to get various types of input and advice for her listeners. Definitely subscribed.