I spent some time with clients of the Terrebonne Arc center. Essentially, the Arc is a nationwide organization serving people with, “intellectual and developmental disabilities,” and their families. I put that in quotes because the definition of what they do has changed over the years, as cultural assumptions about mental disabilities has changed. Here’s a part of their website called “Our Name.”
We, as an organization have been sensitive to the impact of terminology on our constituency and have adapted accordingly. As the words ‘retardation’ and ‘retarded’ became pejorative, derogatory and demeaning in usage, the organization changed its name to ‘The Arc.’
No matter what they called themselves, I found the things that they do in Terrebonne Parish to be really appreciated by the people that worked there. Essentially, they give people who would not be able to fit into a normal workplace environment jobs working at the organization’s bakery, thrift store, garden, and other enterprises, including a project that sorts beads recovered from previous Mardi Gras Parades.
As someone who has come home from a parade with over 10 pounds of beads, I can see the usefulness of this project. They then repackage the beads, and resell them to Krewe’s for their next parade.
For someone like Danny Martin, a Terrebonne Arc client from Houma, this kind of job gives him something to do that is both stationary and repetitive, as there are certain clients that prefer that to being outdoors. “I’m glad I get to do this, because this is a fun job and I like to work,” said Martin.
Neighborhood friends, from left, Jacob Luke, 7, Lawrence Bertoniere,7, and his sister, Megan Bertoniere, 12 pause while playing on Avet Street on Thursday in Dulac, Louisiana.
The mother of one of the friends, who isn’t pictured, approached me to ask the obvious questions relating to strangers and cameras and children. After I had dissuaded her understandable concerns, her tone shifted to curiosity in the article I was photographing for.
The 2012 Louisiana Plan for Coastal Restoration had been released, and outlined where the state was putting its financial resources towards protecting. Most striking was the map found on page 15 of the report, showing the extent of coastal land loss predicted over the next 50 years if nothing was done. The sad thing is, the corresponding map of things planned to help rebuild and defend the coastline, show that more emphasis is being placed on rescuing the area immediate to New Orleans.
The plan proposes significant water diversions and marsh-creation projects around the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. But due to the high cost and difficulty, fewer restoration projects made the cut for the most-vulnerable and rapidly eroding areas in Terrebonne and Lafourche.
Many local coastal advocates expressed disappointment in the plan and emphasized that it is more important than ever for residents to get involved and give their input to the state.
Read more in this article by Nikki Buskey.
So the mother waited patiently for my answer, and I racked my brain to remember the particulars of the plan, and why I had come all the way down to Dulac to, “y’know… put a human face on a story involving a lot of maps and numbers.”
Her home, adorned with a brilliant white and black and gold sign reading, “Saints Fans Only,” would be under a few feet of water by the end of the century. Even if all of the things they are planning to do to save the coast were implemented and worked, her home would still be gone.
"It’s pretty bleak," I stammered, as I tried to explain the different things they were doing in the surrounding parishes, even recreating the barrier islands that had been destroyed by erosion.
She cut me off there, with a smile. This was something she was used to hearing, and I wasn’t telling her anything new. After federal plans, and now statewide plans for salvation had fallen through, it was expected that she would have to do like 40% of Dulac residents had done before her, and move.
Jared Matherne lies on the grass exhausted after a race; Thibodaux High School runners cheer before the start of the district 7-5A cross country meet; runners from H.L. Bourgeois High School pass the Raceland Sugar Mill; and Garrett Thibodeaux of Terrebonne High School rests on the grass.