ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA (WAFB) - To get a sense of what real 'community' is all about, we made the short twenty-five minute drive to St. Francisville and visited with the ladies of Happi Llandiers.
Mildred Armstrong recognized photographer Brandon Shackelford the second we walked in the door!
"Hey Brandon. It wouldn't be Hand It On without Brandon!" she said as she scooped Brandon up into a huge bear hug.
But Mildred was not our Hand It On recipient! She is a member of the Happi Llandiers in St. Francisville. Their start dates back to the early 1950s when seven or eight teachers in West Feliciana Parish got together and purchased shoes, clothes and school supplies for children whose families could not afford them.
The all-female, non-profit organization they formed back then is stronger today than ever. Happi Llandiers (yes, that's exactly how it's spelled) is so named because St. Francisville means "Happy Land." They are deserving of Hand It On recognition in themselves.
You see, each year for the past 62 years, the Happi Llandiers spend months soliciting and collecting donations from area businesses – supplies students from Kindergarten through 12th grade will need to start the school year. In fact, Mildred Armstrong said she doesn't know where the group would be without the in-kind donations from the community.
Once supplies are collected, and with the help of volunteers, the Happi Llandiers spend hours assembling school bags for the different grade levels. They give out between 400 and 500 school supply bags each year during their annual back to school workshop they hold. The workshop has grown so much over the years that they now have to hold it in the West Feliciana Middle School gym!
One of their volunteers is a former student himself. Chase Eames, along with his twin brother Chad, has helped in this effort since he was in pre-school.
At the workshop event on August 1, Mildred, who nominated Chase for Hand It On, surprised him with our cash gift of $300.
"The person that I nominated is a wonderful person," Mildred began as she addressed the assembly. "This person works hard for Happy Land. This person is currently in school. This person volunteers for Happi Llandiers. In fact, this person was up here at 1 o'clock this morning putting away school supplies for the children. This particular person said to me two years ago, I want to start a foundation where I can buy book bags for needy children. Come up here Chase!
"On behalf of Hand It On, I want you to take this $300, start your book bag foundation, and buy 700 book bags this time next year. OK?" Mildred said with a smile as she handed Chase the cash.
He was surprised and elated at the nomination and the gift! No doubt this young man has a bright future because of his huge philanthropic heart. Way to go Chase. What a positive role model you are to young people everywhere.
To nominate ordinary people making extraordinary contributions to your community, send an email to HandItOn@WAFB.com.