From left, Jessica Ditch, Angela Cestia and Lloyd Verret listen as Iberian Publisher Will Chapman speaks Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at a ceremony honoring the three leaders of the New Iberia City Park Playground Enhancement Project, which raised more than $200,000 to purchase and install the new equipment. The group was selected the 2013 Citizen of the Year by The Daily Iberian. — Lee Ball / The Daily Iberian
Lloyd Verret hopes the New Iberia City Park Playground Enhancement Project inspires other residents to come forward, get involved in the community and do projects to make New Iberia a great place to live and play.
The New Iberia City Park Playground Enhancement Project was honored Thursday as The Daily Iberian’s 2013 Citizen of the Year during the paper’s annual open house celebrating its 121st year of business.
Verret, Angela Cestia and Jessica Ditch spearheaded the project, which raised more than $200,000 for the three-story playground equipment set.
The Daily Iberian’s publisher Will Chapman said the group was one that made things happen instead of waiting around for things to happen.
“The citizens who got involved with the New Iberia City Park Playground Project didn’t just sit around and wait for the Tooth Fairy or some other benefactor to make this project happen,” Chapman said.
Chapman pointed out that it wasn’t just the three of them who started and finished the project. He recognized Magen Smith, Ann Carol Indest, Jeanne Haik, On Tap, the Bristow Group, Les Jeunes Amis and others.
“That’s why we wanted to recognize as this year’s Citizen of the Year all of the citizens involved with the New Iberia City Park Playground Enhancement Project, because their efforts showed that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens in our community can make good things happen,” Chapman said.
Cestia added that Bernadette Bender and Callie Borne also were big helps to the project.
“It was a total team effort,” Cestia said. “If any of these people were not involved, it would not have happened. It was an A-plus group to work with, which is why this dream became a reality. I would take on any task with this group.”
Ditch said the project is a testament to the human spirit and the effect each person is able to make on the world.
“This project made a direct positive impact on the lives of children around us, and for that I could not be prouder,” Ditch said. “Continue to let your light shine and be a force of positive change around you.”
Verret said he received many awards from the project, namely meeting Cestia and Ditch and seeing the community come together to make it happen.
“The large number of people supporting us, not just in numbers, but also in their pocketbooks — that was a great reward,” Verret said. “When the gates finally opened, 125 or 150 kids stormed it like it was Christmas morning. They went berserk. They were all running, trying to get to the top.”
He also recognized Paul Allain, Steve Stein, Alton Darby, Mark Dressell, Henry Peltier and local civic groups for being involved in the project.
Chapman explained the efforts to recognize good citizenship began in 1993, the year after Hurricane Andrew hit the area.
“We think that ties into our first editor’s pledge to recognize good things done by area citizens, and we do it here in our office as we hope to symbolize how the recognition of good deeds is part of our core responsibility,” Chapman said.
Past honorees at the open house were Phanat Xanamane, Cathy Indest, Jeff Simon, Becky Collins, Paul Allain, Paul Schwing, Simone Champagne and representatives from the Iberia Performing Arts League.