WEST FELICIANA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - She says children around the parish call out to her "Aunt Peggy! Aunt Peggy!" and she'll scoop them up and then ask them "Who's your mommy?"
Peggy Casanova is a 13-year employee at the West Feliciana Community Center. Her sweet raspy voice with a southern drawl is like a warm hug when you walk in the building.
When I visited Casanova she was counseling a young woman who was reporting to Casanova she'd done everything she recommended. Now all that's left, she said, "is filling out some papers with the state."
That good news set loose some proud coos from Casanova.
"I'm so proud of you, Ashley!" said Casanova. The shy woman responded, "Yes, ma'am".
"You deserve it, baby", Casanova said, "You're gonna do good!"
32-year-old Ashley Irvin responded, "Yes, ma'am. I appreciate it. I couldn't have done it without you."
As Ashley Irvin leaves, Peggy pointed out to me that she had helped Ashley's parents when Ashley was growing up, and now Ashley is out on her own. Casanova views the community center clients as practically "family."
"It's more like family. Our organization helps low-income families, and since I'm a low-income mother raising a child, I know what it's like."
Peggy has been divorced for 15 years. Her son Johnny was four when she became a single mom. Johnny, who is now 19, is wishing for a career in computer game design, but the trade schools in his parish are geared more toward welding and other trades that benefit the plants in the area.
Peggy frets over how she might afford post-high school education anyway. I suggested she might try using the same research skills she uses for others in her own family.
Peggy has a high school education, but has done a lot of learning on the job. Someone has a question, Peggy gets answers.
"I spend a lot of my time just looking up things on the internet, trying to find programs that can help people. There's a program that I've recently found that helps single moms."
She has been known to fill out the applications for people who are shy about doing so.
"I help 'em with their applications. Some of them can't read, some of them can't write, and I do it. They give me their information and I help them."
Peggy's boss told 9News Casanova's community work goes far beyond her job requirements. She cares far more than is necessary. As she shows me the building, I realize that as important for the parish as one of the center's big room is, Peggy Casanova is an asset too. For her energy, for her compassion, for her down-to-earth sense of humor.
Her warmth and laughter still remind me of a hug.