In honor of Black History Month, Johnny Barnes and the Concerned Citizens Association of Natchitoches present the African American Awards. These five individuals represent examples of hard work, dedication and leadership throughout the years. Their impact to the Ark-La-Tex will be felt for generations to come. Claire Prymus is the founder and board chair of the Ben Johnson Educational Center. She has 20 years of experience in project management, consulting, strategy development, planning and relationship management. Prymus gained a love for local, healthy food as a child growing up on Cane River, where she cultivated and harvested fruity and vegetables, and cared for chicken and pigs. ;
After graduating from Grambling University, she moved to California, where her love of food prompted her to start her own catering business, Creole Catering, offering healthy versions of favorite Louisiana dishes. Prymus has a wealth of knowledge gained from starting and running multiple businesses in food service, recruitment and housing. She returned to Natchitoches in 2003 to care for her uncle Ben Johnson Sr., and remained at his side until his death in 2005. She founded the BDJ Center in 2015 in honor of her late uncle, who made a significant impact on the Natchitoches community. In honor of his spirit of giving and support of the community, the BDJ Center addresses food access, unemployment and underemployment issues in Natchitoches, all important factors in driving positive health outcomes.
BDJ Center’s mission is to build community in Natchitoches and give access to social and economic success for all its residents. “My goal is to improve the health and wellness of our neighbors, our participants and our patrons,” said Prymus. The BDJ Center has several components addressed to transform lives and build community.
The Legacy Youth Workforce Development Program (LYWD) is a 16-week training program for youth between 17-24 of age who are out of work and school that prepares them for work, and helps them remove barriers to employment. The next class begins in February. The Legacy Café opened in January 2019 in a neighborhood with few healthy food options. The café prides itself in making soups, salads, sandwiches, sauces and baked goods from scratch. The menu’s twist on traditional cuisine uses fresh, whole ingredients that are locally sourced when available. Seasonal specials are offered to incorporate the BDJ garden produce providing increased access to fresh, local food patrons.
The café also serves as a training environment for the LYWD. The Legacy Garden located in the heart of West Natchitoches produces fresh vegetables, and will add fruits this spring. The garden uses organic soil and never pesticides, all relevant to addressing healthy eating and active living. Coming in the near future is the Legacy Corner Market, which will provide fresh fruits, vegetables and other staples for residents in West Natchitoches.
Prymus is also a talent acquisition agent at a technology firm, where she works remotely from Natchitoches.