(Originally published in the Times-Picayune in June 29, 2019)
It’s a sad day as I write this column for the final, albeit timeless Times-Picayune! It feels like my heart is exploding from the weight of losing this old friend. The newspaper started way back in 1837 and ends with this final edition 182 years later.
It’s been over nine years that Gretna at a Glance has kept you updated about the residents, city events, schools, churches and organizations in “our little town with the big heart!”
It’s been my pleasure to meet so many wonderful people who led me to good stories, gave me quotes, took pictures for me when I was too sick to go and thoughtfully, not always to my delight, corrected me if I got something wrong!
It was hard to decide what to write about in this last column, but then it was so clear. I want to tell how God touches us in Gretna and what a better way to start than with the recent 26th Annual Gretna Prayer Dinner.
Hundreds of locals gathered at the Mel Ott Multi-Purpose Center to break bread and pray together. The crowd especially enjoyed Guest Speaker Sally-Ann Roberts, the retired, beloved WWL-TV journalist who was on the air for over 40 years.
Everyone knows her as just Sally-Ann. When her sister, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts needed a bone marrow transplant in 2012 to correct a very rare form of bone-marrow cancer, Sally-Ann was cast in a key recovery role. The transplant was successful, both sisters are healthy today.
Sally-Ann is strikingly beautiful, but what you notice most about her is her calm presence and powerful smile that light up her eyes. She is very spiritual, the essence of a Godly woman.
Her talk was inspirational. Guests noticed how she raised her hands and sang along, enjoying worship of the Boynton United Methodist Church Choir. Music Minister Frank Thompson “brought it” with his voice and keyboard while Ralph Gipson was on sax and Anthony Knighten played drums.
Event coordinator Val Coles who served as Mistress of Ceremony and Honorary Co-chair Councilman Milton Crosby planned the program, “Love Thy Neighbor.” Event Sponsors were Gretna Community Association and St. Cletus Knights of Columbus Council 8615.
This year’s donation to a local non-profit was presented to Sally-Ann for the organization she co-founded, “Each One Saves One” whose mission is to empower children in the greater New Orleans area by providing an army of volunteer mentors.
Gretna Police Department officers presented colors, Crosby led the Pledge of Allegiance and young Phoenix Wilson with Louisiana Kids sang the National Anthem.
The Invocation was presented by Rev. Warren Johnson, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and Scripture readings were read by Katie Liljeberg, Jala Raymond and Brian Cook.
A prayer for Community Leaders was offered by Deacon Jerry Labadot from St. Joseph Church and Shrine, a prayer for Business and the Economy by Mark Broussard, Jefferson Parish police chaplain and a prayer for Residents by Lynette Berry. Rev. Gary Copping, pastor at St. Joseph’s offered a closing Benediction.
Guests lingered as they said goodbye, many commenting on how the evening was well spent among good folks and good worship.
While on the subject of worship and goodness, the restoration of historic St. Joseph Church, 610 Sixth St. is way up on the list.
Founded in 1857, St. Joseph Church Parish is called the “Mother Church” of 14 Catholic parishes in West Jefferson all the way to Grand Isle. A favorite among historians and westbankers alike, regardless of religion, this present church building has graced the landscape of Old Gretna since 1927 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The protective sealant over the stucco on the exterior of the ornate Spanish Colonial Revival-style church was trapping moisture inside the masonry walls. This elastomeric coating had to be removed and will be replaced with a new breathable coating, with a paint job to follow.
The restoration volunteers at St. Joseph’s are relentless in the efforts to raise an estimated $1,400,000, an amount far above the original estimate for the scope of the work. Costs have risen significantly due to unexpected, extensive damage found in the bell tower as well as with statuary and architectural details discovered as work has progressed. Old termite damage in the auditorium also far exceeded the original expectations and cost.
Over $600,000 has been collected so far from the generosity of parishioners and the community and various special events. Ongoing sales of the popular Mother Church Cookbook have brought in $40,000 and there is always an ongoing cookbook promotion.
Upcoming events include a Chicken Dinner, eat-in or take-out, on July 28 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the St. Joseph Cafeteria on 7th St. Sponsor Knights of Columbus 1905 will buy and grill the chicken. Get tickets after Masses or at the office across from the church.
For $9 you get a quarter chicken, white or dark, baked beans, cole slaw and garlic bread. Desserts, iced tea and lemonade will be available for sale for $1 each.
On Sept. 27, 28 and 29, restoration volunteers will man booths in the ever popular Italian Village at Gretna Fest to sell scrumptious meatballs in a Hi-Do pocket, Chianti and of, course, St. Joseph Women’s Club’s famous Italian fig cookies, all at reasonable prices.
Rumor has it that Father Gary, known for his costumes will depict St. Joseph as he gives samples of Huckabuck’s Italian Ices that will be sold.
There will be Italian themed items, like St. Joseph real estate kits and Italian rosaries, as well as cookbooks and tickets for upcoming restoration benefits. Sponsors are the SJ Women’s Club, Gretna Historical Society and Friends of the German-American Cultural Center.
The third restoration project planned is the annual Rummage Sale at St. Joseph Gym, 7th and Newton Streets, a part of the Gretna Citywide Yard Sale on Oct. 12 from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Donations can be brought to the gym (Newton Street side) every Wednesday in August from 9 a.m. – noon and one Saturday only, Aug. 24 from 9 until 1.
There is a drive on for men, women and children jeans and hi-end designer and vintage clothes in good condition. Formal wear, both men and women are being sought, but regular clothing is not being accepted. No shoes, but purses and hats needed.
Kitchen and household items, linens, seasonal and decorative items, coffee table books only, CD’s, DVD’s, but no electronics. Furniture and clean, good condition rugs needed.
There will be a “Sneak Peek” on Oct. 9 from 5-9 p.m. where you can shop early for $5.
Call Geri Mayville at 504.512.0436 for rummage details.
Chili Cookoff On the River 2019 is slated for Nov. 2 on the Gretna river batture, Main Stage side from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Gulf South Bank & Trust will be the Event Sponsor for this fun-filled family event.
The second year party offers all the chili you can eat and music by “Bucktown All-Stars” and “Chicken on the Bone,” two favorite local bands. Food, beer and wine will be available at very reasonable prices.
There’s a FREE Kid’s Korner with face painting, games and prizes featuring McGruff the Crime Dog and Sparky the Fire Dog.
A Chili Poker Run arranged by Mensy Plaisance will let motorcyclists join in the fun!
Registration is open for Cooking Teams at $100 per team to compete with judging done in a blind method.
Advance tickets are $15, online tickets $17 (incl S&H), $20 at the gate. Sponsorships are available. Call Linda LaBorde at 504.458.6562 for details.
Thanks to all Gretna Glance faithful readers since 2010.
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