CHARENTON — Helping others was an understood theme Thursday when the St. Mary Parish Chamber of Commerce dished out six awards at its annual banquet inside Cypress Bayou Casino.
Former State Rep. Sam Jones, Franklin Mayor Eugene Foulcard, the Arc of St. Mary, state legislative aide Laura Meadows, Patterson State Bank and Berry Bros. owner and Omega Waste Managing Partner Scott Berry were all honored.
Jones, who just wrapped up his third term as state representative for District 50, joked with the crowd, “This is probably my first ever award from the Chamber, so I’m not sure if ya’ll think I did a great job or you’re ready for me to go.”
“Frankly, I thought I was done. However, Gov. John Bel Edwards has asked me to stay in Baton Rouge. Now whether it’s to help him, or to watch my successor Vinny St. Blanc — I don’t know yet,” he joked.
Jones is personal friends with Edwards, having served two terms in the legislature with the governor.
Prior to serving in the legislature, Jones worked as a member of the late Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco’s team. Before heading to Baton Rouge though, he served for over 20 years as Mayor of Franklin
A staunch Democrat, Jones is being succeeded by Vincent St. Blanc of Baldwin, a Republican.
Franklin Mayor Eugene Foulcard scored the Virginia Tyler Guillottee award, which recognizes an individual who stands ready to accept any challenge to improve the quality of life for St. Mary Parish.
Coming on the heels of the parish’s first New Year’s Eve outdoor celebration which drew a crowd near 2,000, Foulcard said he has nothing but thanks for the citizens of Franklin.
“I accept this award with a humble heart. As we move forward throughout our bicentennial in Franklin, I invite you all to experience 200 years of our hospitality.”
The chamber board chose state legislative aide Laura Meadows as its second Administrative Assistant of the Year.
Meadows has worked as an aide for 23 years under two State Senators and four governors. Currently she works for state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Jeanerette, who represents District 21.
“For someone who always has something prepared, I have nothing tonight. However, I am very humbled. I love my job, and I try to do my best for everyone in our district, everyday,” she said.
“Politics and government are strange bedfellows, but they’re fun.”
The ARC of St. Mary won the chamber’s non-profit of the year award, which is designed to recognize the outstanding contributions of a non- profit organization that promotes strong community involvement.
Chamber board member JoAnne Bergeron said that for 65 years the ARC of St. Mary, commonly known as the Center of Hope, has served St. Mary Parish citizens with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
“They provide employment opportunities, among other things, to these individuals,” Bergeron said.
Kristal Hebert, the center’s executive director, accepted the award.
“Our superstars make the Center of Hope the best place in St. Mary Parish. We are happy to employ 25 individuals on our janitorial crew or working in our thrift store, Hope Floats, on Main Street in Franklin,” she said.
“Without the ARC of St. Mary, many of these individuals would stay home, and not build meaningful relationships with anyone. Not one day goes by without them feeling support and love. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all supported each other in reaching our goals?”
The chamber honored Patterson State Bank with its Business of the Year Award. The bank has served St. Mary Parish for 95 years.
Bill Marin, Robert Watson and Peter Lipari, the bank’s top brass, accepted the award. Marin, Chairman of the Board, spoke on behalf of the bank.
“Managing a business is a challenge, and you have to make right decisions,” he said. “A couple of wrong ones could cost your business, and in bad times, making wrong decisions, you could be out of business. I am amazed that we are on the eve of our 95th Anniversary.”
Finally, the chamber board presented Scott Berry, owner of Berry Bros. in Berwick and managing partner of Omega Waste in Patterson.
“The chamber represents the finest in St Mary Parish,” he said.