(Hope For Opelousas executive director Loren Carriere receives the St. Landry Preservationists, Inc. Preservationist of The Year Award on Sunday, photograph from organization president James Douget)
BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer
The multiple, brightly-painted and refurbished houses located inside Opelousas’ East Madison Street neighborhood are serving an ongoing educational enhancement and cultural embellishment mission that has continued to expand for 15 years.
Not only have many of the houses been salvaged from probable degradation, but they have also been turned into multi-grade level classrooms, where students are tutored regularly during afternoons and exposed to cultural activities outside of the city.
Hope For Opelousas executive director Loren Carriere, whose mentoring initiative reaches about 100 students annually, described the parameters of his program before he received on Sunday afternoon, the annual Preservationist of The Year Award presented by the St. Landry Preservationists, Inc.
The non-profit preservationist group formed in 1976, was created to preserve and restore the Michel Prudhomme Home built in Opelousas around the beginning of the 19th century.
Carriere was recognized by the non-profit organization for his efforts at helping revitalize since 2008 an area of Opelousas that once featured a number of deteriorating residences.
In addition, the Hope For Opelousas program has also assisted students and their parents in providing an educational haven that also features teaching the city’s young and adolescent population life skills, while exposing them to extraneous events such as symphony orchestras, movie nights, summer camps, art shows, Appalachian Trail hiking and college football games.
“We have wanted to help restore neighborhoods and fix problems that are facing the community. We have done this by mentoring students and making an investment which helps them get through the minefields of life,” Carriere told members of the organization who gathered at the Prudhomme Home during an annual membership meeting.
In order to accomplish his goal, Carriere said Hope For Opelousas, armed with private donations and sponsorships, bought a first house at 330 East Madison 15 years ago,
Now Hope For Opelousas has repaired, painted and repurposed seven houses in the same neighborhood on the edge of The Hill area. Each house serves a different set of grade levels, explained Carriere.
In addition to acquiring a large, the organization also purchased a South Main Street residence that serves as temporary living space for college students who come to Opelousas to help with restructuring the houses that need assistance, said Carriere.
The Hope For Opelousas houses now painted in distinctive pink, acqua, green and blue, are seemingly serving as a catalyst for private homeowners in the area, Carriere noted.
“I think what we are doing has inspired the neighbors and we have noticed activity on nearby streets, where there is revitalization ongoing. We have also planted a community garden and some of the neighbors are now attempting to do the same thing,” said Carriere.