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Fifty years of commitment. Fifty years of making a difference. Fifty years of women united under the goal of providing charitable services to our community.
This year, the Junior Auxiliary of Houma celebrates its golden anniversary, paying homage to their membership and their mission. Founded in 1973 under the leadership of Glenny Buquet, JA of Houma is a service organization of women who desire to make a lasting difference by providing support for the underserved in our community with a particular emphasis on children. Our local chapter is one of nearly 100 Junior Auxiliaries that span across seven states.
JA of Houma members facilitate many service projects throughout the year to provide physical and emotional support to those in need throughout Terrebonne Parish. Over the last five decades, this has added up to approximately 530 local women volunteering tens of thousands of hours in 158 service projects.
One of the original members and third president, Lynn Cinnater, shared that she is in awe every day that the group has been in existence for more than fifty years. “I think it’s sort of unbelievable that it’s come this far,” Lynn said. “When it started, we were hoping it would be a lasting thing and that it would help the community.”
Lynn recalls dedicating time to the organization and having to remind her children that the time that she spent volunteering was to help others that were in need. Currently, active members are required to complete 24 service hours a year; however, most members can tell you that they volunteer far beyond those hours because they enjoy making a difference in our community.
While these ladies certainly deserve a crown for their dedication and impact, a crown has an entirely different meaning to its members. The Junior Auxiliary Crown has five points, each representing values of the organization: health, service, youth, leadership and charity.
JA members vote on service projects the chapter will orchestrate and execute during the year based on community needs. The chapter currently has eight projects, including a sensory-safe Mardi Gras event for children called Krewe of You, and providing mentorship to the teenagers of MacDonell Children’s Home, and spending time with the residents of Terrebonne ARC residents. Santa’s Sneakers – a JA of Houma project for more than 30 years – provides brand new pairs of tennis shoes for hundreds of local children in need at Christmas. The event also includes a Christmas party that includes crafts, food, and a visit with Santa for families to enjoy together.
“Santa Sneakers has such an incredible impact for so many families over the last 30 years,” says current President Katie Portier. “I enjoy this project especially because I love to see the twinkle in the children’s eyes when they visit with Santa and experience a little bit of Christmas magic.”
Another popular current service project is Sweet Seniors, where members visit with residents of local nursing and assisted living homes to spend time, make crafts, play games, and simply enjoy conversation.
“One of my favorite service projects is Sweet Seniors,” shared JA member Dawn Prosperie. “I don’t have any grandparents so it’s kind of like having a step-grandparent.”
Members agree that the opportunity to volunteer with other women who share a passion to serve is a gift.
“One of the most important lessons that JA has taught me is to not necessarily be afraid to try and do something different,” shared Felicia Zenthoefer, Vice President. “It can be scary to step outside your comfort zone from time to time, but the work we do is so rewarding.”
JA of Houma will be celebrating their 50th anniversary throughout the summer. They’ll spotlight members and milestones throughout the years on their website and social media. During mid-May through end of June, JA will host a temporary exhibit in the foyer of Terrebonne Main Library. The community is invited to a reception at the library on June 3rd at 1 p.m. The 50th year celebration will culminate at the chapter’s fundraising event Dancing With The Stars on August 19. This event features local celebrity dancer teams who compete for their very own mirror ball trophy, as well as silent auction, prize drawings, and more to fund the community outreach programs of JA. To learn more, visit www.jaofhouma.com
“The impact of Junior Auxiliary in Terrebonne Parish can be seen in education, community safety, child welfare, and beyond,” Katie said. “What an honor to carry on the legacy of our founding members and all those who have served. We’re proud to continue the call to serve our community for generations to come.”