Meraux Foundation board members and representatives recently presented a donation to Eugene Campbell to support his charitable work in St. Bernard Parish. Photo Courtesy of Meraux Foundation.
By Todd Ragusa
Eugene Campbell is on a mission. The long-time Violet resident is creating and bringing opportunities to people in the eastern end of St. Bernard Parish. He says that while it is just a few miles from the metro area, this part of the parish is somewhat disconnected from the resources available to its residents.
To support Campbell’s ongoing efforts to help his hometown, the Meraux Foundation advised him to establish a nonprofit organization and was the first to fund it. Meraux Foundation President Rita Gue and Board Member Floyd Gue each personally donated $1,000 that the Meraux Foundation matched with an additional $2,000 donation.
The Gues were first introduced to Campbell after a Meraux Foundation sponsored Christmas event when toys were available to be donated.
“We learned that Eugene had been giving toys to children in need for over a decade,” Rita Gue said. “And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Since then, we’ve gotten to know him and learn more about all the wonderful things he does for people in our community — especially in Meraux, Violet, and further downriver. He’s prolific, and we are honored to be able to help him expand his charitable work.”
A St. Bernard Parish native and professional truck driver, Campbell’s passion is lifting up young people, and he’s become a go-to resource for families in his community.
“Just yesterday, a woman I didn’t know sent me a text asking for help because her son was suspended from school,” Campbell said. “I picked him up and took him to my friend’s auto body shop. We put a tool in his hand and a smile on his face.”
Campbell does this a lot. He makes young people aware of opportunities and connects them to technical training, informally and, soon, formally in partnership with Nunez Community College.
Rita Gue said she appreciates his passion and commitment.
“Eugene is essentially operating a grassroots Career and Technical Education program, exposing young people to different trades, allowing them to explore their interests, and connecting them with training and real-world experience,” she said.
Campbell’s community service started on local playgrounds where he coaches multiple teams each season. Word of his mentorship spread — as did his charitable deeds.
“People started calling out of the blue,” he said. “I’ve lost friends to drugs. Some people feel like they don’t have anyone to talk to. I’ll be that village. I want to make my community proud.”
Just as Rita Gue was inspired to community service by her Aunt Arlene Meraux, Campbell’s passion was inspired by his grandmother. He named his new nonprofit the Irene Campbell Foundation in her honor.
“She was always that person to help others ahead of her own needs,” Campbell said. “She always told me, ‘God don’t bless you to fail.’ It keeps me going.”
The funds provided by the Meraux Foundation will support Campbell’s summer program where he will tap into his network to introduce young people to different professions, such as music, visual arts, plumbing, electrical, and auto repair. He hopes the next step will be job placement and entry into high-wage career pathways.
Campbell’s focus is to ensure locals are positioned to succeed. He says many aren’t aware of training and workforce development programs available to them, and he wants to leverage his credibility and deep roots in the community to serve as the conduit to connect people with opportunities.
“Rather than people leaving to get jobs, I want them to know they can succeed right here,” he said. “I want kids to understand that somebody’s here — that they can chase their dreams.”
He says the Meraux Foundation’s support motivates him to keep going. “They are leaders in our community, and I look up to them. They’re like my role models,” he said. “It feels like my grandma giving me a hug, seeing all the good work is paying off.”