Chris Barrett was a typical Louisiana outdoorsman. He enjoyed hunting and fishing and had the toys to go with his hobbies. It was a passion that he hoped to pass on to his three young sons.
In October of 2014, at the age of 33, Barrett’s dream of teaching his sons to fish and hunt came to an end when a hunting accident took away his eyesight. His blindness not only robbed him of the pursuit of his hobbies but it also took away his job as a computer numeric control machinist.
Without eyesight or a job, times were tough for Barrett and his family. Before the accident he had pride in his ability to keep up his house in Harahan.
“If something broke, I could fix it,” Barrett said.
But times were different now and he needed help. He had unfinished projects at his home and the Louisiana climate had taken a toll on his property.
“I strived to be 100 percent capable of taking care of things but realistically I still needed help,” he said.
Barrett’s former John Curtis Christian High School teacher Kathy Boucvalt heard about his situation and reached out for help from the newly formed Kenner Rotary Young Professionals Club. Once the members of the community service organization heard about the need they jumped in to help.
Members and other community volunteers showed up to pressure wash the exterior of the house, paint the interior, weed and plant a new garden and make repairs.
“I had to hide a lot of tears because I was really choked up,” Barrett said.
It was welcome help for the young father who is training for a new career as a massage therapist. As an added surprise, Barrett and his sons were treated by member Michael Meguerditchian to a shopping spree at his Lakeside Mall store, Go! Games and Toys.
Helping people like Barrett and others in the community that are in need is the goal of the club that is targeting members from age 25 to 45 who want to serve.
“A lot of young people are looking for a way to help in the community but have not had a way through an organization,” Kenner Rotary President John Parr said. So far, club projects have focused on assisting needy homeowners with property repairs but they plan to expand their scope of service in the future.
Most recently they cleared vegetation and made repairs to a house owned by an elderly Kenner couple with severe medical problems. The couple had been living for months without hot water because their hot water heater was broken.
Work sessions last from 8 a.m. to noon on a Saturday and have involved mainly exterior improvements to the homes. Money for the improvements comes from Rotary funds, private contributions and from area businesses such as Rooter Man of Kenner and Ramelli Waste Inc. The businesses also donate services or products.
New Hope Community Church, Kenner Boxing Club and individuals have provided manpower to assist the Rotary. Also, family members often join in the service projects.
Rotary member and Kenner businesswoman Christiana Sully Wilson gave her time to help with the organization’s latest house project.
“Rotary helps people to give them a better future. It is a way to give back to the community. It is so important,” Wilson said.
Parr agrees with Wilson about the significance of helping those in need.
“When you go to these people’s homes and knock on their door, they say ‘I never dreamed anyone would do this for me,'” Parr said.
Kenner Rotary Young Professionals Club meets from 6 to 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at Chateau Golf and Country Club. New members and guests are welcome. Contact Parr at JJKKKJ@aol.com or 504.464.7276 for information about the club or visit the Kenner Rotary Facebook page.