My name is Pierre Washington, co-founder of the Westside Bulldogs Youth Football, Cheerleading and Mentoring organization. I have written a letter to the editor before explaining our program, all that we do in the Port Allen community for our boys and girls, and the work that our volunteer coaches and parents do to keep this organization moving forward. I have also written about the tremendous support that we have received from the West Baton Rouge Parks and Recreation Department, led by Anatole Vincent.
However, I find it to be a travesty that I have to write about the lack of support from the City of Port Allen. It’s not from a lack of trying on our part. It’s also not from a lack of support from Mayor Lee and Mrs. Rose Roche’ in the Mayor’s office. We have met with Mayor Lee and Mrs. Roche’ for the last few years and they have pledged their support for our organization. All we’ve asked for is new uniforms and/or equipment for our kids. That small bit of support means more to the kids than anyone could ever know.
Mayor Lee and Mrs. Roche have supported us, however, when that support leaves their desk and goes to other leaders with the City of Port Allen, that support is shot down. So I recently decided to reach out to a member of the City Council, Mr. Hugh “Hootie” Riviere to start a dialogue and to solicit his help for our organization. Below is the email, in its entirety to Mr. Riviere.
Good Morning Mr. Riviere:
This is Pierre Washington with the Westside Bulldogs youth football team. I know it’s been a while since we talked by phone or email, so I hope this email finds you in good health. I am sending this email to you this morning to solicit your help.
For the last two years, we have tried to work through the Mayor’s office to ask the City of Port Allen to purchase new uniforms for our football players and cheerleaders. Mrs. Rose Roche has been so awesome to us and has done her very best to help us to get this accomplished. However, it seems as though when the request leaves her desk (and by extension, Mayor Lee’s desk) with approval and/or a plan of action to help us, the request is then denied elsewhere, without explanation to us. I could be wrong, and I welcome the correction/explanation if I am wrong.
Now, I totally understand that we are a program that is funded through West Baton Rouge Parish Parks and Recreation, and Anatole and his staff have been very good to us for 11 years. However, that’s the Parish. It is my opinion that the City of Port Allen has fallen woefully short and I would almost venture to say the City has been derelict in its support for the children in this organization.
Our team is made up of over 90% of boys and girls who reside in either the Port Allen city limits, or in the limits of West Baton Rouge Parish. So, these are not kids that are coming in from other parishes, these are OUR kids. It gets to be a little disheartening for my coaches and for our kids when we see other teams in our league, including our neighbors and rivals on the southern end of West Baton Rouge Parish with new uniforms, warm-up suits, shorts, shirts, etc., and our kids are asking when will they get new uniforms. Again, Parks and Recreation has done a great job in for us, but our city has let us down.
I don’t write all of this to criticize or to start an argument, but I write this to start a dialogue. How can we partner to put a smile on these kids’ faces? How can we partner to show the parents in my organization and the coaches that the City of Port Allen does care about their kids? What steps can be taken to create a fruitful relationship with the Westside Bulldogs and the City of Port Allen?
We’re doing our part. We’re hosting voter registration drives. We’re mentoring kids. We’re present in every school in the city. The administrators can call us anytime, and have our phone numbers. Now, I need your help. What can you and I do to further the conversation and create a special moment for these kids? I’d love to chat with you about it. My co-founders, Shawn Brown and the late great Kevin Mason, and I have put our lives into this, along with countless other men and women. Shawn and I (along with our operations manager, Demond Brown) are not going to coach for much longer, and we want to hand this organization off to younger people to run with it, but we want to leave a legacy. This ask is our legacy.
Thanks for taking the time to read my very long email. I’m sorry to be so wordy, but I had to get it all out. I can be reached at this email, or you can call me. If I don’t answer at first, it may be that I am in a meeting at work, but I will call back ASAP. I look forward to hearing from you.
After two weeks, I have yet to receive a response from Mr. Riviere. I’m not here to blame him, because he may have overlooked it through the many emails I’m sure he receives. But why should we have to beg and plead with our city to support us? Our Parish supports us while supporting a youth team in Brusly as well, but our City offers us no support or ignores our request for support.
Who is cutting the power from our Mayor who has attended our games, complimented us on our work with the children, and complimented the work of our VOLUNTEER coaches and parents? About 90% of the children in our organization live within the Port Allen city limits. It hurts that I have to write a letter to the editor to get the attention of our City Council and others in city government to bring attention to the dereliction of duties to their fellow citizens of Port Allen.
Now, I do realize that there may be some facts that I may not be privy to. I’d love to be able to sit with those individuals who have the facts and have them to share those facts with me and my organizational leaders, parents and most importantly, the children.
I’m not asking for support for me. I’m asking for support for the children of Port Allen. Who will sit and have a dialogue with me? Who will sit with me to come up with solutions to help these children feel that their city cares for them? Who will be willing to sit with me to come up with smart and sensible ways to move dialogue and solutions from words on a piece of paper to action? I’m ready, and my organization is ready when you are. We love Port Allen, and we want the best for ALL of Port Allen.
Pierre “Rick” Washington,
Coach and Co-Founder