Out with the old and in with the new West End! Over the past two months, the community has contributed more than 2,200 hours of community service to its area-wide renaissance. Volunteers established new youth programs and were actively involved in the West End Council of Neighborhood Associations’ (WECNA’s) community wide events for NeighborWorks Week 2014.
Participants rolled up their sleeves for WECNA’s "Clean It or Lean It” initiative; houses and businesses received fresh paint, trash and debris were picked up, and dilapidated buildings or homes were torn down to make way for new growth. The community demanded action from absentee landlords, giving them the choice of bringing their properties up to code or have them torn down. In the process, one vacant residence, formerly used for illegal drug activity, was successfully torn down.
Not to leave anyone out, WECNA has sponsored an assortment of programs just for the children of the West End. An old favorite, the "In the Game Room” day camp drew a crowd of nearly 100 children every Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the months of June and July. Community volunteers facilitated crafts, games, and prepared a lunch for the children each day.
Youth football and baseball camps, led by volunteer coaches, featured guest speakers, coaches and athletes as well as practice sessions twice a week for camp attendees. The youth basketball continued through the beginning of August and was free for all participants. On August 4th, WECNA hosted a banquet for all camp participants, complete with team pictures and trophies for the kids.
Recently, WECNA announced their fundraising campaign to revitalize Bunk Plaza. Originally from New Orleans, renowned jazz musician Willie Gary "Bunk” Johnson eventually settled in New Iberia until he passed away in 1949. Bunk traveled with several jazz bands, taught music in the Iberia Parish school system, and is said to have taught legends such as Louis Armstrong and Sydney Bechet. Bunk Plaza is a centrally located concert and meeting venue in the West End, with great historical value to the community. In the past the city has hosted "Bunk Fest”, a jazz festival that honors Bunk’s legacy along with other jazz musicians who have contributed to Louisiana’s musical heritage. The Council, in conjunction with Envision daBerry, are raising funds to raise a new fence that will feature local art as well as draw attention to areas of the plaza in need of repair.
Today’s West End is not the same place it was six years ago; citizens are engaged and have taken charge of its revitalization. In a neighborhood where merely surviving was good enough in years past, West End residents are building an involved community, committed to seeing their home thrive again.