Former neighbors, friends and supporters of the Versailles Arms Apartments in New Orleans East recently reunited for fellowship, music and dinner in Kearny Hall at Dillard University.

In the mid-1970s, many early Vietnamese immigrants to New Orleans, settled in Versailles Arms Apartments. Sonja Bundy Salvant, a former resident during the decades that followed, recalls Versailles Arms as a culturally diverse community that included Vietnamese, African-American and White residents. Salvant, who operated a community room for youth ages six to 17 at the apartment complex for five years from 1989-1994, organized the reunion. The apartment complex did not reopen after Hurricane Katrina.

Salvant was especially excited to see many of the young people—now young adults with families of their own—that took part in activities at Versailles Arms under her guidance when they were young boys and girls.

More than 130 photos depicting the children from the Versailles Arms community room were turned into a video display shown throughout the event. A banner that celebrated the activities at Versailles Arms community room and included the names of participants, supporters and residents was on display. Salvant says the banner had been lost after the storm, but was recently found and returned to her.

At the community room, children living in Versailles Arms took part in arts & crafts, cooking, academic enrichment, weekly Bible study and church services, and other programs. The youth even learned a little about running their own business as Salvant helped them manage snack sales in order to support their various activities.

Salvant says there was great support for the Versailles Arms community from a number of local individuals and entities, including the Orleans Parish School Board, local ministers and a number of local professionals that donated their time and resources. In fact local, famed photographer Harold Baquet served as a Boy Scout troop leader and taught a photography class for youth at Versailles Arms.

The New Orleans Tribune

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