Photo above by Layne Herpin, St. Landry Parish Government
The stories and experiences that Pat Mason-Guillory often hears when she speaks to St. Landry Parish war veterans will soon have a permanent place where they can be recorded and safely preserved.
Construction for a new Welcome Center will soon begin at Veterans Memorial Park on La. 182 south of Opelousas, that once completed will allow parish veterans to gather and share their experiences and memories.
A ground breaking ceremony for the 1,350 square-foot building last week officially marked the beginning for the development of the Welcome Center which will be used as a multi-purpose facility for those visiting the Memorial site.
During the ground-breaking ceremonies Mason-Guillory announced that once construction work starts it could take about three to four months before the building is completed.
Mason-Guillory said that she often acts as an intrigued listener as veterans discuss their military experiences.
“Now we will have a chance to document the experiences of these veterans and share them with their families and others who want to hear the stories that are told by these veterans,” Mason-Guillory said.
Those discussions and shared memories will have their place at the Welcome Center, which will also allow Mason-Guillory and her volunteer staff to have a work, storage and archival space for information about veterans whose names have been placed on bricks at the Memorial Park.
“We will now have restrooms, a computer to store all of our information, a resource area, displays and photos of the veterans, along with some of the artifacts that they may have donated,” Mason-Guillory told a crowd that gathered for the ceremony.
Another important feature of the Welcome Center will be a reference source used by volunteer workers to identify the locations of veterans who whose names are engraved on the brick walkway, Mason-Guillory said.
“We are often asked the question about where is my brick. When the Welcome Center is completed, we will be able to show individuals where the bricks of their family members have been located. There will also be an app finder that will be developed so that we can find the brick someone might be looking for,” Mason-Guillory said.
Mason-Guillory noted that estimated completion costs for the Welcome Center could reach $200,000.
That amount is a $50,000 increase over the original estimated construction costs, she said. Currently the Welcome Center has $126,000 in dedicated revenues.
During the ground-breaking ceremony the Church Point Woodman of The World Lodge 444 presented Mason-Guillory with a $1,000 donation that will be added to the Welcome Center fund.
Last year parish president Jessie Bellard said parish government was donating $100,000 of American Rescue Act revenues to the Welcome Center construction fund.
Bellard said during the ground-breaking ceremony that the Welcome Center qualifies for ARA money, since the Memorial Park site will be used as a tourist attraction.
Photos below by Bobby Ardoin, Contributing Writer