Good Neighbor - January 2022
A welder by trade, Laronne Lewis, Sr. of Waveland has become a pro bodybuilder and personal trainer with a passion for mentoring others. He focuses on “building self-esteem through discipline, consistency and nutrition for overall health.” Although he works with everyone, Laronne sees a special mission for himself in mentoring young men, many of whom have no male role models.
Laronne spent his early years in New Orleans’s 7th Ward in a single-parent home with his mother and four siblings. With no male role model in the home, his paternal grandmother was a pivotal influencer.
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Laronne explained that his grandmother, Jewel Washington, raised him up to continue her benevolent work. Larrone described his grandmother as “an amazingly strong woman – a civil rights activist despite serious disabilities and mobility challenges.” Jewel looked out for her neighbors and helped wherever it was needed. No one was ever turned away from her door hungry or in need. Laronne learned about engaging in the community from her.
His grandmother also taught Laronne to value his heritage. She gave him history lessons regularly after school so he would understand his roots, which included early participants in Congo Square in New Orleans and members of the Choctaw tribe.
As Larrone approached his teen years, he moved in with his father in Waveland and attended middle and high school on the coast, graduating from Bay High. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston was the next step for the motivated young man, and he studied industrial science, which led to a career in welding. Today, he continues industrial work as a maintenance technician for the HUD Section 8 Housing locally.
Unfortunately, grandmother Jewel died in 1991 and didn’t get to witness his many achievements since. That hasn’t prevented him from carrying on her work. As a member of the Mississippi Rising Coalition, Laronne continues his grandmother’s calling to feed and care for the community. In fact, distribution of donated produce to Hancock County families is dear to his heart.
The Waveland resident’s civic-minded commitment also led him to run for alderman in the city’s Ward 2 in 2018. Over the years, he’d been groomed and encouraged to run for public office by the likes of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Alabama Senator Doug Jones and Mississippi State Representative David Baria. While the 2018 election didn’t go in his favor, that hasn’t dampened Larrone’s motivation to enrich his community.
Laurianne Manchester, who works with Laronne on Mississippi Rising, does not hesitate to sing his praises. “It’s an honor to work alongside Laronne for progressive change in Mississippi,” she said. “He brings his whole heart, talent and passion for people to the work. He also understands that in order for all of Mississippi to thrive, we have to build relationships and power to the people the political establishment ignores.”
In 2004, Laronne began his own business, Temple Building. The focus of Temple Building is the impact of nutrition on overall health – which circles back to his community work. Viewing the body as a temple, Laronne is committed to helping youth find ways to honor and care for their own temples as alternatives to destructive behavior. Teaching healthy nutrition also means providing the resources needed to maintain it.
In recent years, Larrone joined Bay Strength and Fitness (formerly Rah’s Gym) with owners Raoul Bought, Zach Carver and Zach's mother, Jackie Carver, to help round out the wide range of services they provide. As Zach explained, the gym is not a fitness center or spa; it is a place to work on oneself.
Created out of a warehouse on St. John Street in Bay St. Louis, this affordable gym is open 24 hours a day to provide opportunities for all to engage in exercise. In addition to an abundance of exercise equipment, Bay Strength and Fitness offers karate, Pilates, aerobics and yoga classes. Families and individuals hold memberships, and members range in age from four years old to 80. Laronne, of course, is a gym fixture.
Laronne is also the single father of three sons ages 27, 23 and 19. He says he values being a strong, positive role model for his sons. Just as his grandmother did before him, he teaches them to actively engage in building their community.
Lea Campbell from the Coalition said, “I’ve never seen someone care so much about young people. He acts as a mentor for many and really helps them get– and stay – on the right path.”
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