Need a New Year’s resolution? Here’s one that can help children learn to read. Volunteer with STAIR, Start The Adventure In Reading, a 30-year-old local children’s literacy program with a waiting list of youngsters who would like to participate. More volunteer tutors are needed to make this happen, and training begins in January.

No experience is necessary, and only one two-hour training session is required. Tutors meet with children after school or on Saturday mornings at STAIR-operated sites in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.

Training classes in New Orleans will be held at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7; 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9; and 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, at the St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church Land Building, 1535 State St.; and at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at Woodland Presbyterian Church, 5824 Berkley Drive in Algiers.

To register, contact volunteer director Elizabeth Artigues at (504) 899-0820 or For information about STAIR, visit

East meets West

A Carnival kickoff party will be held from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6, at Pizza Nola, 141 W. Harrison Ave. in Lakeview.

“We’ve been so excited for the 2016 Carnival season, so we wanted to kick it off with a big flourish to celebrate the king cakes’ arrival,” said Pizza Nola co-owner Will Samuels. The cakes he’s celebrating are from Dong Phuong Bakery in eastern New Orleans. The party will feature music by local favorites Benny Grunch and the Bunch, breakfast featuring king cake French toast and book signings by Peggy Scott Laborde and Judi Bottoni with their release “New Orleans Mardi Gras Moments.” Children’s book author Cornell Landry will also be there with her releases “Happy Mardi Gras” and “The Amazing Adventures of the Mardi Gras Bead Dog.”

Look for surprise guests, pageantry and royalty, “even if we have to coronate our own,” Samuels said. The event is free, but registration is recommended via For information visit

Dong Phuong Bakery, 14207 Chef Menteur Highway, has been serving the New Orleans community for 30 years. Its king cakes have a scalloped edge topped with cream cheese icing instead of the sugar-based frosting found on most cakes.

Botanical Garden free days

Starting this month and continuing into the new year, Louisiana residents get free admission on Wednesdays to the New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park, courtesy of The Helis Foundation.

The garden showcases art deco design from the Works Progress Administration, featuring architect Richard Koch, landscape architect William Wiedorn and artist Enrique Alferez, who recently was honored with the opening of an 8,000-square-foot space featuring 14 of his sculptures along footpaths surrounded by tropical flowers and shrubs.

The Alferez garden is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; entrance is through the Oscar J. Tolmas Center, known to locals as the Little Casino building. The main entrance to the Botanical Garden is on Victory Drive.

The Alferez sculpture garden “is a fitting tribute to a man whose art has meant so much to the beauty of City Park and New Orleans,” said City Park CEO Bob Becker.

The Helis Foundation, established and funded by the William Hellis family, focuses on community needs primarily in the New Orleans area.

Going, going ...

It’s the Final Countdown

Happy New Year y’all.

Lynne Jensen writes about New Orleans community events and people. Contact her at