Summer camp at Fort St. Jean Baptiste immerses youth in history and nature

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Immerse your child in history and nature for a week, at Fort Saint Jean Baptiste State Historic Site’s summer camp June 6 – 10.Experience a fun-filled week of Archeology, nature, fishing, and even build a Native American Indian teepee. On Friday, children can choose a take-home craft such as doll making, bead work, weaving, or other projects.

The camp is open to children age 5-9. Camp fee is $75 per child; two or more children is $50 per child. Registration ends Sunday, May 29, and is done by dropping by the site’s visitor center at 155 Jefferson Street. Fees are due the first day of camp.

Drop-off will be at 8 a.m., with pick up by 5p.m. Campers will need a sack lunch and snack for each day, as well as mosquito repellent (wipes with deet are preferred) and sun screen. Water is provided.

For more information about Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site and Louisiana State Parks visit LaStateParks.com.

Nelson named FSPAC student director

OthaNSUNorthwestern State University student Otha “Tre” Nelson III of Prairieville is one of two students selected as student directors for the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee.  Nelson will represent hundreds of thousands of sorority and fraternity students nationwide through FSPAC, which allows Greeks to work together to support those in Congress who champion Greeks and higher education issues.

Nelson is vice president of NSU’s Student Government Association, vice president of Sigma Nu Fraternity and vice president of the Interfraternity Council.  Earlier this year he was one of 50 members of Greek organizations from throughout the U.S. to participate in the Greek Life Lobbying Trip in Washington, D.C., an even sponsored by the FSPAC. In Washington, he met with members of congress to discuss issues of interest to fraternities and sororities, such as the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act, which would allow charitable contributions to fund housing for Greek organizations. He also represented NSU at the New Hampshire Student Primary.

Nelson is a sophomore liberal arts major with a concentration in politics, philosophy and law in the Louisiana Scholars’ College.  He is a freshman orientation leader and a member of the President’s Leadership Program.  He was also a counselor for the Louisiana Boys State program for two years.

“I am extremely excited to begin my term as one of the two students sitting on the Fraternity and Sorority PAC Board of Directors,” Nelson said. “This organization has a bright future ahead of it and I’m honored to pick the next leaders who will help us take it to the next level. The Fraternity and Sorority Action Committee seeks to pass the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act, and with this upcoming board I believe that we will undoubtedly be able to pick up more co-sponsors of the bill.”

Nelson will participate in FSPAC board meetings this year, as well as the 2017 Congressional visits. This summer he is completing an internship in Washington, D.C., in the office of Rep. Cedric Richmond.

“Tre represents they type of student the Greek Life Office looks to develop in partnership with other departments and programs at NSU,” said Shayne Creppel, director of Greek Life.  “His selection as a student director of the FSPAC is not surprising to me, but it is such an incredible honor and it brings a lot of credit not only to the Greek community but to the university. He was selected along with one other student to represent the hundreds of thousands of members of the fraternity and sorority movement in the nation. I think that speaks volumes to the kinds of student leaders that are produced at this very special university.”

Rotary Club visits Grand Ecore Visitors Center

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Pictured from left to right are Arthur Welch, Steven Fullen, and Fred Terasa.

Coordinated by Rotarian Arthur Welch, the Natchitoches Rotary Club recently journeyed out on their second field trip of the year to the Grand Ecore Visitors Center. Along with a tour of the new facility, led by Director of Interpretation Steven Fullen, the group enjoyed a delicious picnic-style luncheon provided by Tatae’s Catering. Fullen began the meeting on the deck of the facility, which provides a panoramic view from an 80-foot bluff overlooking the beautiful Red River. He explained that the Cane River National Heritage Area and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a cooperative endeavor agreement November 2015. Under the new agreement, the Cane River National Heritage Area will assist the Corps in daily operations and staffing. His goal is to create community outreach and educational programs, improve interpretive services and enhance the marketing and heritage tourism initiatives of the site. Educational and informational exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the region, along with remnants of Civil War earthworks can be seen at the Visitor Center. For more information, go to http://canerivernha.org/.

Welcome to Louisiana-Now Pay Up

By Kevin Shannahan

kevinS-TWO“Well Mr. Shannahan, it’s like this. They all drive drunk. Nobody has insurance. They’re all hurt in the wreck, sue and their cousin’s the judge.” That rather unforgettable, if not exactly polite, answer came from my auto insurance agent 22 years ago when I called to ask why my auto insurance premium had more than doubled when I moved to Louisiana from Seattle. I was sure the hefty figure had to be a mistake. As anyone who has lived here for any length of time knows, it was not.

My welcome wagon was not finished rolling however. The military has a tradition of one’s driver’s license, registration and residence not matching. Such is not the case in civilian life, so off to the local DMV office I went. I left with new plates for my decidedly modest car $180 later, having had the privilege of paying sales tax on it in two states. My first month in Louisiana proved to be quite the challenge.

I recently attended a presentation from the Committee of 100, a group dedicated to reforming Louisiana’s budget. I found out that, since our overall tax burden is so low, the prospect of having the highest sales tax in the nation is of little consequence. The local sales taxes, combined with the state’s would exceed 10 percent in many areas. A mere trifle as we get to celebrate Tax Freedom day (when you are working for yourself as opposed to for the government) earlier than most states.

While it may be true that we celebrate Tax Freedom day a bit earlier in the year than residents of our sister states, there are some “days” we do not celebrate as early, if at all. The first one that comes to mind is “Freedom from auto insurance rates that are higher than when I lived in California Day.” Then there is the ever popular “Not having to shell out a small fortune in private school tuition since I’d like to have my children not attending a school that is proud of its “C” rating and I lack the political pull to get them into a Magnet School Day.”

When looking at the quality of life in Louisiana, taxes are only a part of the barriers facing educated middle class families, who are exactly the kind of people our state needs more of and has such difficulty attracting and retaining.The current debate over TOPS Scholarships will be rendered moot if our young graduates head for the Texas border as soon as the ink on their diploma dries. Quite simply, in addition to the “official” taxes which are bad enough, especially considering what we get for them, there are costs and structural barriers to a middle class lifestyle that constitute an “unofficial” tax that costs our state’s citizens dearly.

Louisiana’s auto insurance rates, the toxic result of our state’s judicial climate are consistently rated among the nation’s worst. Substandard roads and our casual laws concerning alcohol (drive-thru daiquiri stands never cease to amaze me, and not in a good way) are a drain on Louisiana families and a huge disincentive to moving here or staying here to start a family. But this and some of the other problems facing our state are an effect, not a cause. It’s not the shockingly high insurance rates, the indifferent quality of the schools or any of the other measures where we fall short, in and of themselves, that are the problem. Their underlying causes are the real issues we face.

These problems are more than a financial drain, they threaten one of the very basic premises of our country: that the circumstances of your birth do not have to dictate the outcome of your life, that your children can work hard and build a better life than you had. Social mobility is becoming more and more constrained. We fall farther and farther behind the rest of the nation.

This does not have to be. We live in a state of rich natural resources with the major port on the Mississippi River in our borders. Our schools may be largely indifferent, but the children in them are not. They are no different than their counterparts anywhere else. We are failing them. They are not failing us. Our problems are serious and growing, but not insurmountable. Next time you look at your insurance bill ask yourself why. Let’s get to work!

The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this submission. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal.  If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.

Bolton Realty sponsor of Dragon Boat Races

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Bolton Realty contributed $2,100 to sponsor a team from the 115th Combat Support Hospital in Fort Polk to participate in this weekend’s Dragon Boat Races on Cane River in downtown Natchitoches. The Northwestern State University Foundation is hosting the races, which will begin with an opening ceremony at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 28.

From left are Kimberly Gallow, NSU’s assistant director of Alumni Affairs; Bolton Realty owner Janice Bolton and Vanner Erikson, associate director of Alumni Affairs.

NSU Summer Theatre planning two shows

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Northwestern Summer Theatre present a tribute to Hollywood musicals along with a murder mystery beginning in June.

“Hooray for Hollywood” will be performed June 8–11 and 15-18. “Murder Ahoy” will be presented July 27 – 30and Aug. 3 – 6. Performances are on the A.A. Fredericks Auditorium stage. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and a four-course dinner is served by members of the cast starting at 6 p.m.

Tickets are $30 and reservations are required. For more information or to make reservations, call (318) 357-4218. Both shows are appropriate for all ages.

“Hooray for Hollywood” is a tribute to movie musicals from early Hollywood up to recent hits. Songs from 28 popular musicals will be performed along with clips from some of the films. The first act will be selections from many of the top musicals of all time while the second act is a countdown of the top 10 movie musicals.

The cast is Alexia Mullally of Pearland, Texas, Marissa McMickens of Pineville, Grace Brumfield of Baton Rouge, Leonard Harris of Baker, Christian Dantes of Shreveport and Braxton Hogan of Natchitoches. The crew is Sélène Allain-Kovacs of Charenton and Titus McCann of Covington.

In “Murder Ahoy,” Captain Red beard the pirate has been spotted sailing these waters, and no one is safe while he’s around. He’ll kidnap your women for ransom, and Shanghai your men when he needs a crew. But the scuttlebutt has it that there’s talk of mutiny among the crew. The old Captain might want to have that parrot on his shoulder watch his back, or there’ll be more than 16 men on that deadman’s chest in this boisterous buccaneer mystery!

The audience can take an active role in determining who committed the crime. Audience members can “bribe” the cast for clews to solving the murder. Scott Burrell is the director.

City of Natchitoches Water Line Repair

WaterLineRepariThe City of Natchitoches Utility Department will be repairing a water leak at the corner of Texas Street and Second Street tomorrow, May 25, 2016. The street will be closed at Texas Street and Washington Street and at Texas Street and Third Street. Second Street will reopen as soon as possible.

Please make the necessary detours to avoid these road closure.

City Council Meeting – May 23, 2016

By Natalie Covher

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The Natchitoches City Council met May 23, during the pre-council meeting Johnny Barnes presented over 30 Keep Natchitoches Beautiful Awards to various members of the community.  Barnes also presented Mayor Posey with an award.

In other news, Hugh Santos Sr. requested a review of the decision the Planning and Zoning Commission made May 3 that approved the application submitted by Rand Metoyer to subdivide Lot 1, Block K of 315 E. Second St. in East Natchitoches. Metoyer requested a partial variance of the required 7,200 square foot lot size to construct a single-family dwelling on one lot and to add on to an existing house.

“I’ve been forced into this role by my neighbors,” said Santos.“They asked me to write the letter of appeal. We believe this is an effort to pack as many units as possible on to a property only to receive more income from that property.”

Santos states that he and the neighbors that came to him to voice their concerns are worried cutting up the lot into smaller lots and putting duplexes in will increase crime, garbage and traffic.Council members including Nielson, Stamey and Morrow continued to support Metoyer stating that they think that he is trying to improve the area.  Council members reminded the public that they addressed public safety concerns and took time to examine implications before planning and zoning approved the application.  They agreed that continued policing of the area is important but alsostated that they will support planning and zoning’s decision. The appeal failed that the approval of the application stands.

One item that received attention at the meeting was the introduction of a review amending the ordinances that govern and regulate peddling, canvassing and soliciting in the city. It was explained that an ordinance that had been in place to prohibit door to door sales for years was deemed unconstitutional. This forced a review of ordinances resulting in these amendments to benefit the health, safety and welfare of the general citizenry. The amendments were described as “putting more teeth in our canvasing laws.” It was explained that in order to go door to door peddlers, canvassers and solicitors must acquire a license submitting them to fingerprinting among other safeguards for the community. They will have to wear id badges and submit a plethora of information to the police no less than five and no more than 15 days before going out. The public can put a sign saying no peddling, soliciting or canvasing and this opens them up to trespassing charges.

Other agenda items included:

  • Proclamation declaring June as “Immigrant Heritage Month” in the City
  • Ordinance amendment changing zoning classification of 210 Jefferson St., owned by William S. Mitchell
  • Ordinance to comply with GASB statement 54 committing Special Revenue Fund balances
  • Ordinance amending the 2015-2016 budget to reflect additional revenues and expenditures

Ordinances introduced at the meeting included:

  • Setting forth the adjusted millage rate(s)
  • Roll forward to millage rates(s) not exceeding the maximum authorized rate(s)
  • Award the bid for 25 tons of Potassium Permanganate, for the Water Treatment Plant
  • Award the bid for the Rue Beauport Sewer Main Rehabilitation

 Announcements at the meeting included:

  • The City will hold a Swearing-In Ceremony on Monday, June 13 at 4:30 p.m. at the Natchitoches Events Center for Lee Posey, Mayor; Don Mims, Councilman At Large; Eddie Harrington, Councilman, District 2; Sylvia Morrow, Councilwoman, District 3; Lawrence Batiste, Councilman, District 4.
  • Preceding the Swearing-In Ceremony outgoing Councilmen David Stamey and Larry Payne will be honored.
  • Sylvia Morrow will lead a clean up in District 3 May, 28 at 9:30 a.m. at First Baptist Church on Amulet. There will be dumpster located on North Street.

Brewery becomes anchor business for future development on Mill Street

By Corey Poole

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Residents may be skeptical of the City’s plans for a mixed-use development on Mill Street at the former ADM Southern Cotton Oil Mill, but the City feels the property isn’t being utilized.

“It could become something more productive to the community,” said Mayor Lee Posey. “Since I moved to Natchitoches I’ve been looking at that group of ugly buildings, trying to think what we could do with them.”

The City Council held a public hearing before its regularly scheduled meeting May 23 to discuss the development.

The anchor business for what will hopefully become a larger development in the future is Cane River Brewery.

Owners Cade Gentry and Justin Krouse will renovate the building and parking will be added behind it. Fencing will separate the building the owners chose to renovate and the rest of the mill site. There will also be separate access so the brewery and the City Public Works Department can function independently.

The Public Works Department will continue to work in its current location, but plans will be made to begin a slow transition to a new location as other businesses express interest in locations within the development.  Gentry and Krouse graduated from NSU where they majored in hospitality and tourism management. Gentry moved to Shreveport after college and works at a casino. Krouse is the general manager at a restaurant on Front Street.

“Natchitoches is in my roots,” said Gentry.

Working in restaurant and marketing industries in the past, customers always asked them what they’d recommend for a local beer. While there are several breweries in the state, none of them are a true local beer, which is what Natchitoches needs, according to Gentry.

While working on plans for a restaurant, the idea for the brewery took root.
“We have a chance to make something good here,” said Krouse. “We saw there was a demand for local products.”

They want to tie the names for their brews back to Natchitoches’ history and culture, paying tribute to such iconic names as St. Denis, Northwestern State University and more.
“I don’t want people to think it’s a bar,” said Krouse. The business will include a distribution operation, a taproom for tastings and an outdoor patio area.

“We want it to be an experience where people will come out and enjoy it. It will be a place for people to relax after work,” said Gentry.“The industrial look of the building fits right in with our style.”

They plan on brewing mostly ales because lagers require longer fermentation periods. While they plan to make their staple beer a light pale ale, they will also offer a mixture of darker craft beers.

“I’d like to see our beer all over the state within the next five years,” said Krouse.

Once plans are finalized, Gentry and Krouse want to attend the Siebel Institute in Chicago to study brewing science. The 143-year-old Institute has educated top beer makers.
They also plan to hire a brew master. “While we’ve experimented with brewing beer before we’ve never done it at such a large scale,” said Gentry.“A brew master will help, but we feel there’s still a lot we can learn at the institute.”

At the Council meeting Monday night, one resident asked if the City plans to sell or lease the buildings. The Council answered that it would be purchased because it wants to let the private businesses take care of themselves.

The City just invested $7-8 million for updates to the Water Treatment Plant, which will also continue to operate in its current location. The City is considering building another plant that could facilitate 8 million gallons a day. However, a move of this magnitude is a decision that could be a 20-30 year process. “This is something to look into for the future,” said Posey.

The City has 6-7 acres in the development, excluding the Water Treatment Plant and it is looking at purchasing additional property as the opportunity arises. The City has agreed that the “old timey” cotton press, one of only two in the nation, will be saved and turned into a tourist attraction. The development, which could be considered an extension of the Historic District, would have the same restrictions. This would limit what can be done to the exterior of the buildings on the property, but the general consensus is that they will be preserved to retain the industrial feel of the mill.

“Similar thing are going on in Ruston,” a community member said. “They have kept the external character of the property intact and the interior is converted for a full range of uses. This could be a gold mine.”

There are Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits that could apply to the development if the external look of the buildings is kept intact.

However, some residents are concerned about hours of operation and noise levels. The City requires noise to stop at 10:30 p.m. in the downtown area and the brewery will comply.

“Nothing is going to replace downtown,” said Councilman David Stamey. “The City is still going to invest heavily in the downtown area and nothing with affect the look and feel of the Historic District. It can go hand-in-hand with what we’re trying to create instead of being competition.”

Posey has talked to the Dept. of Transportation and Development (DOTD) about the possibility of moving Mill Street to the East or West side of the railroad tracks or bringing the road to run alongside Chaplain’s Lake.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will look at the property May 25 to see if a protected wetland area could be kept as a green space with the addition of walking and bike trails. Councilman Dale Neilsen said he’d like to see walking and bike trails connecting to Fort St. Jean Baptiste.

Another idea is a 60-passenger boat that could transport passengers from the downtown area to the development on Mill Street, but if this were to come to fruition, the Cane River Waterway Commission would become involved in the specifics.

The next step for the City is to get a price appraisal and see if any rezoning will be necessary. Posey said the Council will be proactive on this matter and public hearings will be held is any zoning changes need to be made.

“We want to make sure we communicate well with the people in the area,” he said.

Tours and programs will visit Natchitoches as visitor numbers rise

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The Natchitoches Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (NACVB) collected $32,507 in hotel tax for April. Administrative fees were $975 for a net total of $31,532, which is $882 over last year and $2,000 over the projected budget for April.

The Visitor Enterprise Funds from the state were cut by $7,000. According to NACVB Director Arlene Gould, for the last fiscal year the fund was cut from $130,000 to $100,000 and the most recent special session cut it further. This is 19.23 percent of the NACVB’s budget. With the new fiscal year starting July 1, Gould said, “Who knows what will happen.”

A group of 19 international tour operators will tour Natchitoches June 24 on a post Familiarization (FAM) tour from an International IPW Conference being held in New Orleans. The operators are traveling from countries including India, France, Canada, Germany, Denmark, China, Guatemala, Australia, Romania and Austria.

The Tourist Office logged 88 international visitors in April, totaling 311 year-to-date. The total visitors logged at the office totaled 1,060 for April and 3,226 year-to-date.

Twenty-five professionals will attend a LTPA Leadership Academy in Natchitoches June 9. The focus is product development and Natchitoches was chosen for its abundance of state historic sites, museums and organizations.

“We’re excited they chose to come to Natchitoches,” said Gould.

Researchers release Writing Project results

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Educators who coordinated a partnership with the National Writing Project at Northwestern State University and schools in Grant, Red River, Avoyelles and Jackson parishes released findings last week that indicated significant improvement in preparing students for writing at the college level. The two-year study targeted districts that were rural with high poverty rates that struggled with test scores, particularly in English and language arts.

Key findings indicate a positive impact in all four areas of student argument writing: content, structure, stance and conventions in grades 7-10 and that teachers benefit from professional development and support from supervisors and administrators.

Lisa Davis, director of the NSU Writing Project, shared findings during an informational for district administrators that included round table discussions and information about resources.

Davis said the National Writing Project’s core principles are to help teachers understand the full spectrum of writing development across grades and across subject areas. She and school liaisons Leeanne Bordelon and Dr. Martha Young led workshops for teachers at their districts to share best practices and promote collaboration for teaching writing.

“Teacher-led professional development is effective and improved teacher instruction,” Davis said. The results are that teachers grow in skills and teaching abilities and students write more and with better success.

“It’s the best thing we ever did,” said Melanie Lavespere, an administrator in Grant Parish. “Our teachers are learning better ways to teach writing, not just assigning writing projects.”

The National Writing Project study was the largest and most rigorous of its kind and included college-ready writers programs in 10 states with 400 teachers and 25,000 students. Davis said the results were quantitatively significant. SRI International, a non-profit research institute, collected and reported the findings.

“Certain practices are effective and there is no single approach” in teaching writing, she said. Results improved when teachers collaborated to share strategies that were useful, practical and relevant, that connected to the curriculum and to state standards. “The participating schools had leadership that was courageous to try these innovative practices. The teachers see the value of the work.”

For information on the NSU Writing Project, visit nsuwp.nsula.edu or email nsuwp@nsula.edu.

Regional Manufacturing Managers Councils Meet in Natchitoches

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Community Alliance and Northwestern State partner to bring together Councils

The Natchitoches Community Alliance (NCA) has partnered with Northwestern State University (NSU) to bring together the Northwest Louisiana Manufacturer’s Managers Council with the Central Louisiana Manufacturer’s Managers Council at a Regional Meeting to be held on campus at the Friedman Student Union on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 from 9am until 1pm.

The event will feature notable speakers on the workforce-training theme that include Dennis Epps, Robin Schott, Dennis Parker and Woody Oge. Following presentations, the respective Councils will discuss, along with representatives of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), next steps in innovative apprenticeships.

Mr. Dennis Epps, Senior Vice President for Workforce Solutions for the LCTCS, will be discussing apprenticeship initiatives; Mrs. Robin Schott is the regional director for Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and will cover K-12 initiatives with internships and apprenticeships. Mr. Dennis Parker, Assistant Manager for the Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathways Development of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing will discuss Toyota’s model of apprenticeships. Lastly, Woody Oge, retired Director of Business Affairs for Ingalls Shipbuilding-Avondale and current member of the Board of Supervisors for LCTCS will explain the model used by Ingalls-Avondale.

The Natchitoches Community Alliance works to ensure a coordinated, proactive approach to growing the economy of the entire parish through business retention, expansion, recruitment, and entrepreneurship; workforce development; and marketing of the assets of Natchitoches parish to local, regional, and statewide partners. Learn more at www.NCA-La.com.

A Message from Rodrick McIntosh – Public Hearing

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The City of Natchitoches will hold a public hearing at 4:30 PM on MONDAY, MAY 23, 2016 at the Natchitoches Arts Center, 716 Second Street, Natchitoches, Louisiana. The purpose of the public hearing is to discuss the potential development of a mixed-use development at the former, ADM, Southern Cotton Oil Mill site, located at 110 Mill Street, Natchitoches, Louisiana. All interested persons are encouraged to attend this meeting.

I encourage you to make time to learn more about this–you will have a chance to hear from the Mayor about his thoughts on this project, but also you will likely hear from folks that do not want it. It is important for you to learn more and decide if you think it is worth pursuing–before someone else makes that decision for you!

I’ve provided very rough “sketch” of the project area(in purple) to help you visualize the scope.

Personally, I think the project has a great deal of potential, if planned correctly and with good public input.

Rodrick McIntosh

The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this submission. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal.  If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.

Prayer breakfast recognizes women who serve their community

By Corey Poole

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The Natchitoches Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority held its annual Prayer Breakfast May 21 at the MLK Center. The theme was “Dedicated Women Called to Serve and Transform Lives in our Community through Public Service.”

Alice Hardison, a Natchitoches native known for her passion to serve others, was recognized at the event. She serves as the victim’s advocacy coordinator for the Natchitoches Parish District Attorney’s Office and coordinator and co-counselor of an anger management class. She is the daughter of the late Gentry and Alberta Pantallion Davis. She enjoyed wedded bliss with the late Earl “Red” Hardison Jr. for 43 years. Together they created a lasting legacy of family and love that’s shared with her children and many others.

Merry Byers received an award for her heartfelt message to the crowd as the speaker for the event.

“I see examples of women right here with you Deltas who so impress me with your spirit and dedication to the Lord and your community,” she said. “You are women who have found your way into the hearts of entire wards through your good works. You allowed nothing to obstruct your mission to transform lives in your community. As sisters of the gospel, we are linked together by the service we render so that individuals, families and communities will be strengthened.”

As a child, Byers was profoundly affected by the prayers and spiritual life example her parents lived. She was touched by God at an early age and accepted Christ.

She received a bachelor of science degree in social work with a minor in criminal justice from West Texas A&M University. She received a master’s in social work from LSU. She works as the director of the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office Community Service Division. She is also a hostage negotiator on the SWAT team and serves on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club of El Camino Real, Children Youth Planning Board and NSU School of Social Work Advisory Board.