Inside St. Bernard Parish Prison sits a 400 square-foot chapel where prisoners have been able to worship since the jail’s construction in 1991. The space, also used for drug education classes, substance abuse meetings, staff meetings and attorney/client consultations, recently received a makeover thanks to a donation from a local non-profit group, Sheriff James Pohlmann said.
St. Bernard Recovery Awareness, which assists St. Bernard Parish residents who are suffering with substance abuse and mental health issues, donated more than $2,000 to the Sheriff’s Office so the chapel could get a facelift.
With labor provided by deputies and prison trustees, the chapel received a fresh coat of paint and new wainscoting, new wood flooring and carpeting on the altar, and new ceiling tiles and lighting.
St. Bernard Recovery Awareness President Robert Fezekas II said the organization advocates for prevention, treatment and community resources that embrace long term recovery.
“The intention (for the makeover) was to create a more relaxed and inviting atmosphere separate from the usual prison-like conditions inmates face daily. In the chapel, they are free to open up their thoughts and feelings without being prejudged or criticized for their mistakes,” Fezekas II said. “(Sheriff Pohlmann) has been very supportive of the efforts of outside initiatives for rehabilitation.”
Fezekas II said residents can do their part to advocate for the continuation of these programs by donating their time and support.
“We want residents of the community to realize what an important role they can play in helping bring about change,” he said.
St. Bernard Recovery Awareness is currently holding a fundraiser in recognition of September being National Recovery Month. The group usually holds its annual St. Bernard Recovery Rally each September, but cancelled this year’s event due to COVID-19.
Instead, the group is selling face masks for $10 each with proceeds going to help raise awareness. Masks, made with funds donated by the Meraux Foundation, can be purchased at the following locations: Wow, 1720 E. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette; Crave, 3201 E. Judge Perez Drive, Meraux; B&G Fresh Market, 501 W. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette; Crazy Cajuns Fish Shack, 3124 E. Judge Perez Drive Meraux; and Angel & Co. Hair Salon, 1800 E. Judge Perez Drive Chalmette.
For more information about St. Bernard Recovery Awareness:
St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office employees who helped refurbish the chapel include Capt. Adrian Chalona, Sgt. Frank Auderer, Dep. Tommy Cosse and Vaughn Charrier. Mike Sherwood, a drug education coordinator, also donated his time to the effort.