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The donation from Cabot to the Evangeline Foundation was presented Friday, May 3, outside the facility. From left to right are Cabot Human Resources Manager Claudia Jenkins, Evangeline Parish Schools Supervisor Grace Sibley, Cabot Facility General Manager and Foundation board member Mark Suellentrop, Foundation President Matt Marcantel, Foundation board member Rhonda Butler, Foundation board member Dr. Gwen Fontenot, Evangeline Parish Schools Supervisor Linda LaFleur, and Evangeline Parish Schools Superintendant Darwan Lazard. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)

Educational opportunities, foster children, and orphans discussed at recent Ville Platte Rotary meetings

The Rotarians from Ville Platte were the first ones to hear about a donation to help the teachers in Evangeline Parish.
The news came during the club’s meeting on April 30 when Rotarian and Cabot Facility General Manager Mark Suellentrop announced “Cabot has teamed with the Evangeline Foundation and donated $1,000.00 to the Teachers’ Education Fund in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week.”
He continued, “We’re trying to build up an endowment that we can give back to teachers and give back to the educators in our parish to help improve education for years to come.”
On behalf of the Foundation, board member and Vidrine native Dr. Gwen Fontenot said the plans for the donation began back in February.
“Mark came to me and told me Cabot wanted to do something for the Foundation’s education fund,” she said. “Cabot and Mark are committed to help every person in our parish to have access to educational opportunities and the tools they need to be successful.”
“Cabot is taking a step forward to make a donation for education and is challenging all businesses in the parish to match it,” Dr. Fontenot continued.
She went on to explain the money from the donations will be used to set up a fund which “will not be depleted.” She added, “It will stay there and will hopefully grow higher, so when you and I are long gone and your children are long gone that money is still going to be there helping out.”
Dr. Fontenot concluded, “It doesn’t matter if it’s scholarships or to buy equipment or to help somebody learn French or a musical instrument to keep our culture going. We want to invest in the future.”
A week later, Camille Fontenot with The Hotel Cazan in Mamou introduced Theresa Jeffers who is a foster parent who will be presenting an upcoming conference at the hotel. Fontenot said the conference will focus on “what we can do in fostering children and to help the foster children system.”
Jeffers expressed there are currently “over 500 thousand children who are not sleeping in their parents’ homes every night.” She added, “Every day, that number rises, and we’re trying to find ways we can reach out. Foster parents need support.”
Later in the same meeting, President Peter Strawitz shared how he went to an event in Marksville on The Orphan Train and recounted his grandfather’s journey as an orphan to Louisiana.
“We don’t know where my grandfather’s parents came from,” Strawitz said. “He was born at The Harlem Hospital in October 1905 and was left at The Foundling Hospital from infancy to age 2. At age 2, the nuns, along with other riders of The Orphan Train, came to Mansura, and he was adopted by the Olivier Coco family.”
“He grew up in Marksville,” Strawitz continued, “and later in life became an auditor for the State of Louisiana. He had a job in New York City and went back to The Foundling Hospital to find out what his real name was. He came back home and had a discussion with my dad and aunt, and they changed their name. We don’t know why even to this day, but, either way, we became Strawitz.”

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