Helping Hands for Those in Need

Women Who Mean Business | Alva Lemon Esq.
May 1, 2021
Fresh From the Farmstead
May 2, 2021
Women Who Mean Business | Alva Lemon Esq.
May 1, 2021
Fresh From the Farmstead
May 2, 2021

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that businesses and organizations operated over the last year, local non-profit organization Junior Auxiliary of Houma has remained committed to its promise of building and upholding relationships with its community. 

 “The overall mission of JA is to provide a service, not just to provide material things, but to…create relationships with those who are underserved in our community as it relates to child welfare. That is one of the heavy focuses of Junior Auxiliary as a whole,” JA President Kellie Walters said. “And so still being able to make that connection with them keeps our mission going.”

 JA is a non-profit, service-base organization comprised of women from the local community. It was founded in 1973 as a branch of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA).

 Members of JA become involved with service projects and events that allow them to be actively involved in aiding needy people in the community in a hands-on way, with a main focus on child welfare. Locally, the group offers aid to the Haven, the Hooper Dorm, Louis Children’s Crisis Center and more local organizations and charities that support children in need. However, members welcome service to all kinds of organizations.

 Membership in JA is centered on a five-year commitment. Women enter the organization as provisional members each November, and undergo six months of training to learn about the chapter and its projects. Once their training is complete, they become active members in May.

 After five years of active membership, women can become associate members and remain involved however they choose.

 When the pandemic first began to shut businesses and locations down in March of 2020, Walters said JA immediately shifted to virtual meetings and operations. 

 Large-scale events like the organization’s annual Dancing With the Stars fundraiser were cancelled and replaced by smaller-scale fundraising events like a pop-up garage sale last summer.

 More importantly, Walters said JA members sprang into action to brainstorm creative, innovate ways to continue their service in a safe, socially distant manner. 

 For their Sweet Seniors project, which is geared toward nursing homes and assisted living residents, Walters said the organization provided activities like puzzle books and craft projects organized by members of JA, particularly around holidays.

 In lieu of the organization’s traditional annual reverse trick-or-treat project where children of JA members deliver candy to nursing homes, Walters said the organization hosted a Halloween parade outside the homes so that residents could open their windows to watch.

 In addition, JA adopted a pen pal project for members to connect with their Sweet Seniors through written letters and drawn pictures. 

 “We worked with the activities directors of the different homes, and they provided us with some names of residents that could be a pen pal for one of our members, and so our members took a name from each home, and we’ve been writing to our designated pen pals throughout the last several months,” Walters said. 

 For the children in group homes supported by JA, Walters said members have provided meals and socially-distant birthday celebrations like car parades, as well as prepared holiday-based activities for residents.

 The organization has held Zoom meetings with the children to keep in touch with them, and to celebrate occasions like birthdays.

 Walters said that it is important for JA members to ensure that the children they serve know that they have not been forgotten amidst the “new normal” brought about by COVID-19, and that they can always rely on JA. 

 Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Walters believes that the last year has revealed how important JA’s service to the community is and has brought members together to develop ideas that will likely continue to be adopted by the organization moving forward.

 “To see our members just really jump into action despite what was going on in their personal lives, despite the fact that a pandemic is scary, they were so willing to just jump and help and create different ways for us to serve to make sure that we did not lost touch with out community in that way,” Walters said. “I think it’s brought forth even more service to our community and brought to light even more creative ways to touch those that we do serve.” •