“There’s no tablecloths here. There’s no frills, no thrills. This is just down-to-earth people who want to support scouting,” said Art Hawkins, executive director of the Evangeline Area Council, which has its office in Lafayette but covers St. Mary Parish as well.
The event, which was held at the AARP Building in Morgan City, typically raises about $22,000 for the council at $75 per ticket, and is one of the council’s biggest fundraisers, Hawkins said.
“The money that’s raised here goes to pay for insurance, helps keep the lights on and the doors open at the office. It goes to have a full-time executive as a resource for our volunteers right here in St. Mary Parish,” he said.
“We also provide scholarships to individuals throughout the year who cannot financially afford to join scouting. The one thing that we will never allow is for a young man to not be able to join scouting because of finances.”
The event is named in memory of longtime local Boy Scouts supporter and scoutmaster Joe Cefalu who started the fundraiser more than 30 years ago.
“My daddy (Joe Cefalu) started this dinner … in his backyard,” said Bill Cefalu, who volunteers at the event along with his two brothers. “It started out as a guy’s night out, and it ended up as whoever wants to pay for the ticket (can attend),” Cefalu said. “It started out to raise money for the local troops, and it got so big, the Evangeline Area Council (started overseeing it),” Cefalu said.
Part of the money raised from the event through the Evangeline Area Council will go to help fund Camp Brownell in Stephensville. Former Morgan City mayor C.R. “Doc” Brownell gave the scouts an approximately 40-year lease on the camp property that scouts still use today, Cefalu said.
The campsite is one of three wilderness Boy Scout camps in Louisiana where scouts from across the state camp with the bare essentials and “rough it,” Cefalu said. The camp is in need of some improvements including leveling of grounds, fixing some water problems and making the camp nicer for the scouts, Cefalu said.
The fundraiser is made possible entirely by roughly 50 volunteers, Hawkins said.
“There’s no caterer here,” Hawkins said. “It’s all volunteers out there, making sure that the money these people donate, as much of it can stay to support local scouting.”
Most of the people who attend show up every year to support local scouting and memorialize Joe Cefalu, Hawkins said.
“I’ve worked in Miami, Fla., I’ve worked in Appleton, Wisc., for the Boy Scouts, and I’ve never seen anything like this (fundraiser),” Hawkins said.