Leadership Ascension's D'Ville Shooting Stars net funds for Lemann Memorial Center

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Members of the Ascension Parish Council are shown during the March 3 meeting held at the Donaldsonville courthouse. Shown from left are Teri Casso, Chase Melancon, Aaron Lawler, Dal Waguespack, and Michael Mason.

Leadership Ascension's D'Ville Shooting Stars class members requested funds to go toward the Lemann Memorial Center renovation project during the Ascension Parish Council's finance committee meeting March 7 in Gonzales.

In February, the group met with the recreation committee and the Donaldsonville City Council to discuss the plans for the multi-purpose community facility.

The project has to be completed by the end of May, class members have said, and they have been fundraising and procuring in-kind donations.

Shell and CF Industries have contributed, as well as several smaller donors. Additionally, the City of Donaldsonville will chip in funds, though an exact amount has not been decided yet.

The class initially requested $70,000 from the finance committee.

District 1's Alvin "Coach" Thomas, who represents the west side of the parish, expressed his appreciation to the group for bringing the renovation project forward. He also applauded the companies that donated.

District 7's Aaron Lawler suggested matching funds for every dollar the group raised instead of giving the full requested amount and depleting funds for the rest of the year for such projects.

In the recent past, Leadership Ascension projects received $120,000 in 2020 and $70,000 in 2021.

"I don't understand why tonight, all of a sudden, we need matching funds," District 5's Travis Turner said.

He added that he did not see why the "rules would change at the last minute."

"Just to be blunt, it seems like we're going to treat the west bank different from the east bank," Turner said.

Thomas followed by saying he did not appreciate some of his colleagues making it seem like he underbid Donaldsonville by his initial $20,000 offer.

"What happened just now... That is about as politics as it can ever get," Thomas said.

District 's Chase Melancon attempted to speak before being cut off.

"Hey, Chase, I didn't call your name..." Thomas said.

District 9's Dal Waguespack replied that he initially suggested starting at $20,000 before he realized the timeline and previous amounts offered.

"You can put it on me if you want. I wasn't politicking," Waguespack said.

Lawler went on to say a matching funds situation can help the group raise money.

"I know from doing fundraising before, that is always a selling point. If you can get people to think they are giving twice as much as they are giving, it's really going to be good for them," Lawler said.

He added that he did not mean it as a slight to Donaldsonville.

"Quite honestly, every single time Leadership Ascension comes with a project - in Prairieville, St. Amant, Donaldsonville, Geismar, Darrow, or wherever - we should always do matching funds," Lawler said.

A motion was made to give the class $58,000, which was remaining in the 2022 budget for such projects. The committee unanimously voted for the motion, sending it to the full council for approval.

The second council meeting of the month is set for March 17 in Gonzales.