On Monday, August 12, summer came to an end for WBR students as they made their way back to school, and with the help of St. Vincent de Paul, several hundred impoverished WBR students proudly were among the many attending with brand new clothes.
St. Vincent de Paul council of Baton Rouge, with the assistance of WBR Sheriff Mike Cazes and Parish Prison Warden Major Bryan Bellelo, distributed new clothes to more than 300 parish students whose families meet the poverty standards, according to St. Vincent de Paul of BR CEO Michael Acaldo.
“Our Uniforms for Kids drive is geared to providing free school uniforms to needy kids in West Baton Rouge Parish,” said Acaldo.
Acaldo said that the program providing children with school uniforms began in Baton Rouge, but quickly made its way across the Mississippi River after Cazes and Acaldo spoke about bringing the program to the area around 2001.
“Of course there are a lot of needy children in West Baton Rouge Parish as well and we went to Sheriff Cazes and Warden Bellelo and asked for some help raising money and provide uniforms and they just embraced the program,” Acaldo said. “They’ve just been wonderful when it comes to supporting this cause.”
Cazes said that he realized long ago a need in the community and saw that St. Vincent de Paul could help to fulfill the need.
“It’s a very rewarding thing. I got involved years ago, just to help give back to something the community needs,” Cazes said.
Cazes said that he has given money and time to the organization each year since he began his involvement with the Uniform for Kids effort, and has even revolutionarily opened the giving efforts to the prisoners in the parish prison.
“I approached (prisoners in the work release program) and told them I was working with St. Vincent de Paul – I help give. And they asked if they could give,” Cazes said. “Low and behold, we were giving thousands of dollars that those guys wanted to give because they knew that they were helping a needy child somewhere in West Baton Rouge Parish and they were fortunate enough to be in work release and to have a job.”
Acaldo said that the program would not be in West Baton Rouge Parish if it were not for the WBRSO.
“We couldn’t do it without the sheriff and Warden Bellelo down at the parish prison. They both are really, really behind the program,” he said. “It’s over 300 children that we’re helping. It might even be as many as 500. We couldn’t do it without them.”
He said, too, that the WBR Parish President, Riley “Pee Wee” Berthelot is also a great supporter of the Uniforms for Kids program each year.
“I just couldn’t imagine going to school lacking the proper attire, and what kind of humiliation that must be for a child,” Acaldo said. “I think that’s part of the reason they have always kind of gotten behind it relative to trying to help us raise money.”
Cazes said that he’s glad he’s been able to help the cause.
“It’s just a remarkable thing knowing we can give back to the kid that needs something,” he said. “If we can help one child to have a happy life, that to me is a great success in our community.”
For more information about St. Vincent de Paul, or to help St. Vincent de Paul in any way, contact the main office in Baton Rouge at 383-7837 ext. 0, or visit the West Baton Rouge St. Vincent de Paul thrift store on Hwy. 1.