In 1970, Matt Stuller was frustrated with the jewelry industry's poor service and slow delivery times, so he built a business around supplying quality goods and service with next-day delivery. 

Last year, his frustration with litter and blight in his hometown reached a tipping point, so he worked to develop an organization that could create the thriving, beautiful and sustainable community he dreamed of.

His business, Stuller Settings, is now widely recognized as a global leader in the jewelry industry. The new organization, Parish Proud, could one day be recognized for transforming Lafayette into a community that looks as beautiful and vibrant as the culture it's known for.

Parish Proud launched Wednesday with a community event that brought together more than 100 people at the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

"It was humbling, that there was standing room only," Stuller said. "We had a great turnout, but more importantly than the turnout: These were movers and shakers within our area. They are influencers, and those are the people that we really need to get engaged because they will lead the behavioral changes needed to make this a much nicer place to live in, which I think we all deserve."

Those who attended Wednesday's event included representatives from the government, economic, education, business, law enforcement, religious, social, nonprofit and environmental sectors. 

Parish Proud, which has already raised $1.1 million, won't duplicate efforts by others in the area. Instead, it will serve as an umbrella service organization that connects public, private, business and civic organizations doing good work.

"It's not about us," said Skyra Rideaux, a community leader who worked with Stuller to make Parish Proud a reality. "It's about amplifying and elevating those organizations who are already making a difference."

It's Bayou Vermilion District removing 19,703 barrels worth of floating debris from the watershed. It's CGI collecting more than 26,000 pounds of electronic waste. It's Project Front Yard's pilot pollinator project that will swap native flowers for grass in roadway medians to save money on mowing expenses and provide habitats for bees.

There was no shortage of examples during Wednesday's event, but the emphasis remained on work left to be done.

Parish Proud identified seven primary sources of litter in Lafayette Parish. They include:

  1. Fast food containers
  2. Trash from garbage trucks
  3. Alcohol bottles, cups and cans as a result of open-container laws
  4. Cigarette butts thrown from vehicles
  5. Debris from the beds of pickup trucks
  6. Illegal signs
  7. Illegal dumping

The event offered a few ideas of how people can make a difference today. They include:

  1. Embracing a space.
  2. Adopting a vehicle cigarette bin from Keep America Beautiful.
  3. Adopting a trash bin with Parish Proud.
  4. Becoming a Parish Proud partner.
  5. Donating.

The event ended with a standing ovation for Stuller and Rideaux.

"We would not be here. We would not be having this discussion, and this would not be occurring if it weren't for these two people," said Lafayette City-Parish President Joel Robideaux. "To get to today is such an accomplishment, and I know this is an initiative that will become part of your legacy."

Learn more about Parish Proud at parishproud.org

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Email Megan Wyatt at mwyatt@theadvocate.com.