Lt. Col. John Thomas “Johnny” Raymond, a former member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces and Rangers, had dreamed of a community center in the middle of town where regional history, military and the arts would be celebrated.

That dream is about to come true with the Teche Center for the Arts, to be located in the heart of Breaux Bridge, said Susan Ziller Brazell, a member of the center’s board.

Raymond, who also was a Breaux Bridge businessman, died last May, but the momentum continues to construct the center in a former movie theater at 210 E. Bridge St., Brazell said.

The site will include a theater, two conference rooms for education and exhibits, and a pocket park in front for concerts.

“It became a dream of Johnny’s, and we’ve all embraced it,” Brazell said. “We are more determined than ever.”

On Sept. 20, the company in charge of the center hosted a fundraiser during Breaux Bridge’s Art Walk, raising money through the sale of memberships, and bricks and pavers for the center’s courtyard.

The highlight of the evening, however, was a $50,000 donation from Breaux Bridge residents Beth and Perry Guidroz.

“Here we were selling bricks for $200 and received this large check,” Brazell said. “We’re very, very thrilled.”

The organization remains in the “heavy-duty fundraising stages,” with an immediate emphasis on obtaining grants and selling memberships and bricks, Brazell said.

Once the center is complete, plans are to provide historic, military and art exhibits, host concerts and performances, and provide classes in cultural topics such as Cajun and Creole language, music, cuisine and dance.

“We are really big on teaching adults and children,” Brazell said. “Our goal is reaching out to the Acadiana community.”

The pocket park in front will be a space for the community to use at any time, she added.

“It’s just a little park in the middle of town for the people to enjoy,” she said.

Glenn E. Angelle, of Angelle Architects, is the building’s designer, and the planned opening of the center will be October 2016.

Brazell and her husband, Carl Brazell, originally from Crowley, worked in radio and television for 25 years in New York and Connecticut but chose Breaux Bridge as their retirement home.

Carl Brazell served as president and CEO of Metro Media International, and Susan Brazell worked in TV sales and is owner of Ziller Brazell Co. Carl Brazell serves as the center’s vice chairman.

“We have a long relationship with communication and outreach,” she said. “We’re right where we belong.”

Other members of the center’s board include Coatney Raymond, chairman; Chad Theriot, treasurer; Jennifer Angelle, secretary; Beth Guidroz; Glenn Angelle; Hart Hebert; Beth Guidry; Mo Jo; Georgie Blanchard; Howard “Doc” Alexander; and Lynda Price.

“There’s a lot of guns there,” Susan Brazell said of the board. “We are a group of citizens who are highly motivated to get this together for the town.”

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