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Cedric Epps celebrates his barbecue grill door prize with Pointe Catholic-Pointe Coupee Sheriff Rene Thibodeaux.

A call for peace and unity highlighted a community gathering Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Rene Thibodeaux and Parish President Major Thibaut hosted last week at the William H. Scott Civic Center.

Approximately 250 people attended the event, which was free and open to the public. The event also included a free dinner and door prizes.

Rev. Mark Rodney, pastor of Place of Refuge, issued a challenge for parish residents to bridge the gaps that many communities face.

Pointe Coupee Parish could serve as the role model, he said.

“Why can’t Pointe Coupee be an example for the whole nation and every other parish,” Rodney said. “You can start here tonight.”

Thibodeaux, who took office in late June 2020 amid a pandemic, said parish unity was his goal when he took office, but other challenges awaited him.

“I took office during a pandemic and then we had an unprecedented six named storms hit south Louisiana,” he said.  

As a former DARE officer and previous president of the Louisiana DARE program, the fight to keep juveniles in school and away from drugs remains one of his main priorities.

The relationship with parish and municipal entities has helped in that respect, the sheriff said.

“Each one of us has a role. If we can help one juvenile to keep them away from drugs,” he said. “We want safe communities, and that’s our main job and main focus.”

The gathering came at a perfect time, amid the divisiveness across the nation, along with a pandemic and a busy storm season.

“It’s been a tough run,” Thibaut said. “Since the sheriff took office, it’s been one issue after another, and for us here, locally, recently.

“But we share that Pointe Coupee is a great place to live, a great place to grow up and a great place to raise a family, but we’re not shielded from adversity.”

He referenced the shooting deaths of Livonia resident Trey Allen outside the RAXX Bar & Grill in Erwinville in the early hours of Sept. 18, and the slayings of Howard and Gerrell Hollins less than 24 hours and the loss of beloved Livonia High School teacher Lucy Boley, who died Sept. 22 after a long battle with COVID-19.

“In all of that, our community rallies around each other any time something unfortunate like that happens,” he said.

“I saw countless acts of kindness to our neighbors south after the hurricane and every played a role because in Pointe Coupee, that’s what we do.

“We come from Coon, Frogmore, Livonia to New Roads and Morganza … wherever,” he said. “In times of need, we come together, and we face adversity head on. It’s really a special place.”

The challenges are particularly tough on law enforcement during the challenges from natural disaster, pandemic and other challenges.

“It’s a tough time to be in law enforcement or being a first-responder,” Thibaut said. “Despite all that adversity, they continue to do it.”

The parish is well on its way in that direction, Thibaut said.

The close collaboration with the Sheriff’s Office, school system, Assessor Jimmy Laurent, District Attorney Tony Clayton, the Public Defender’s office has helped the parish move forward, officials said.

“Between the different entities in parish government and municipalities in this parishes, I feel we have more coordination than ever before to get things done and make this a better parish,” he said.

“With so much divisiveness across the country, it’s important for our citizens to come together no matter what part of parish they live in, no matter their race or backgrounds.

“We’re all one parish and we’re all in this together.”

Thibaut closed with a comment from automotive pioneer Henry Ford: “Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.”