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Pictured here is a group of James Stephens Alumni as they prepare to paint the door at Agnes Anderson’s residence on Edward “Knotoe” Thomas Street. From left to right are: Bottom row- Larry Jackson, Audrey Thomas, and Winson Ned; Middle row- Judy Ned and Vinelle Malbrew; and Top row- Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine. (Gazette photos by Tony Marks)

James Stephens alumni brighten up the City of Ville Platte with freshly painted front doors

Associate Editor

Alumni of schools at every level hold a similar mission statement of giving back to the schools of their time and financial contributions. One group of alumni in Ville Platte has taken this mission one step further by giving back to the community.
Members of James Stephens alumni gathered together Saturday at St. John’s Baptist Church to go out and paint more than 50 front doors at homes around town. “It’s a beautiful day, and hopefully it’s a successful one without any rain coming through so that they can get something accomplished trying to give back to the community,” said the church’s pastor Freddie Jack.
Organizer Gussey Brown explained why just the doors would be painted. “If you have a bright front door, it just kind of perks your whole demeanor up,” she said. “It’s almost like a woman when she’s having a sad day. If she just puts on a good red lipstick, it just makes her feel better.”
“Just to have your door painted a bright color kind of makes you feel good,” she continued. “It brightens up your spirit because if you look around here you don’t see any color. Everything is just bland. That’s why we’re painting the doors just to add some color to the city.”
Brown then explained the importance of the project. “It’s important because of your emotional well being,” she said. “There’s so many funerals, and people are depressed over losing loved ones. It would help if they just had something else to give them some kind of joy.”
“It also helps just with the fellowship with people coming from out of town because most of us came from Houston and Baton Rouge,” she continued. “We came just to let the people know we are still a part of Ville Platte and that we do care about what goes on here.”
Ville Platte’s Mayor Jennifer Vidrine shared her thoughts on the importance on painting the doors. “It’s very important because it’s all in the James Stephens’ nature,” she said. “When we were all at James Stephens, we were taught not only academics but also giving back and taking care of the community. What this project does is going to help keep Ville Platte clean. I applaud the James Stephens alumni for keeping our city clean because all of these people are from Ville Platte, so they are coming back to give back to the city.”
Other members of the alumni echoed the communal importance. As Bobby Bowens said, “I think it’s a beautification program that will benefit the entire city.”
“This is a very special occasion,” said Larry “Chicken” Jackson. “It’s very special to keep the community clean and beautiful.”
For Audrey Thomas, the project is a way of giving back. “I just think that it’s something beautiful to give back to the community and let them know we as a James Stephens alumni are coming back to do something for the community because most of us live out of town,” she said. “I just think painting the doors is a wonderful project.”
“We want to bring back to our community of Ville Platte,” said Frances Washington. “We were once at James Stephens, and we just want to build the neighborhood back. We figured the painting of the doors will be very beautiful, and it would probably make our community better and bring light into Ville Platte.”
Phyllis Frank expanded not only on the community aspect but also on the fellowship. “It’s very important to the community because doing this accomplishes a fellowship,” she said. “I went to where they feed the elderly. They did their applications, and I had a chance to have fellowship with them. I got a chance to learn what they really needed in life, and then we got a chance to be a friend at the same time. It gives you a chance to give back and to love at the same time.”
Carleen Bellard, who is the director of Teen Outreach Program, stated that the young people also got involved to lend a hand. “The James Stephens alumni are sowing a seed to our program,” she said. “To get the kids involved is showing them how the community works together to improve our community, to build it up, to make it more beautiful, and to make it something they can be proud of. Getting them involved shows them stamina, responsibility, civic pride, leadership, and character.”
After receiving a blessing from Pastor Jack, the volunteers divided into groups to start painting the doors. According to one resident on Edward “Knotoe” Thomas Street LouElla Griffin, “It was well done, and I appreciate it very much. They did a very good job.”
Another resident Agnes Anderson called it a blessing. “It’s a blessing from God that they helped because I always wanted to paint my door, but I never got to it yet. It’s really nice.”

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