Power of 9: Honors for Prairieville couple

Power of 9: Honors for Prairieville couple

PRAIRIEVILLE, LA (WAFB) - ExxonMobil has 3-thousand employees and somehow these two found each other and fell in love. One was in the refinery, the other in the chemical plant.

That was 43 years ago.

"I guess, we started volunteering initially through the church," said Howard Vigie. "And that's how we got started volunteering. And I worked for Exxon and we've always been involved with United Way. Since we've retired, we've had a lot more time to do volunteer work."

Howard and Carolyn Vigie said ExxonMobil had recently written two one-thousand dollar checks on behalf of each of them to United Way. Exxon donates money according to the number of hours its employees work at a community charity.

Howard and Carolyn Vigie's most recent volunteer work was to help the Easter Bunny. Their church, Istrouma Baptist Church, is sponsoring a mission field in Algiers right outside New Orleans. They needed six thousand eggs.

Turns out the Friday they planned to hold an Easter Party in the neighborhood, it was a gully-washer of a rain storm. So they just sent the goodies to the children later.

As we stand in the kitchen, the Vigie's counter top is filled with photos of their years of volunteer work. Carolyn proudly shows me two pictures of the most recent project.

"This is my little great niece Anna." Carolyn says. "She knows all about candy and eggs," she chuckles.

I asked, "How many do you think you did?" and was stunned when Carolyn answered that the Vigie's alone had stuffed 1,148 eggs.

The pictures show lots of shots of children. Howard and Carolyn love working with kids.

There are pictures of a Navajo reservation where the Vigie's cooked for the church crew who were working on the mission, but knew that more than a dozen Navajo would also join the crowd at the supper table each morning and night. Carolyn would cook and then head over to lead a class of children in some crafts and fun.

The Vigie's were slated to go work with children on an Istrouma Baptist mission to the Dominican Republic last year but Carolyn's mother fell ill so they had to cancel.

Howard and Carolyn say they'd really like to reschedule and go down there now that they are able to leave Louisiana.

I smile when I pick up a photo of Carolyn wearing a late 1800s dress and rolling a wooden hoop with a stick.

"You know how to roll a hoop," I ask, amazed.

"No," Carolyn laughed. "That's something I had to learn."

"I've been for the last few years, volunteering at the Audubon Pilgrimage. And I work at Oakley House with my sister Diane Ealise."

A picture shows the couple receiving a certificate, "United Way, Howard and I received an award three years ago," Carolyn Says. "We received an award for making the most agency visits. 43, we made 43 visits."

The agency visits are to verify that the money United Way is giving to the community agency is being used in the way it was promised.

A picture shows Carolyn and Howard standing with another couple, who just happen to be former Power of 9 super volunteers, Charles and Frances Bennett.

"This is when we volunteered at Night at the Museum, there at the Louisiana State Museum in Capital Park."

She pulls photos from one of my favorite events every year, the Inner Wheel of the Rotary Club's Trash and Treasure Sale, a gargantuan garage sale.

"And this is what I did," Carolyn explains, "hang clothes, at Trash and Treasure and he (Howard) did Electronics."

They work sports at Istrouma Baptist.

Howard says he might do anything at games, manage the parking lot, concession stands, make sure teams get where they're supposed to at tournaments. He does basketball and football. The church stopped him from working for the baseball team.

"There's a danger in Baptist churches of having volunteers burn out. They said they don't want me to do that."

In the summer during Vacation Bible School at the church, Howard's at the d rop-off area helping kids safely come inside the building, and Carolyn is inside playing characters and whatever else is needed.

Sitting together on the couch of their Prairieville home, you realize that the majority of their volunteer work is in Baton Rouge and the two don't bat an eye at driving in to do all those things. It's because they love what they do. Looking at the work, you can see that they specialize with children and senior citizens.

We also step into their back yard where their Golden Labrador Prince is elated we came to visit. He's literally bouncing around the yard, very very happy.

"Prince is our Katrina dog. He just kind of wandered up in the yard after the storm and never left," Carolyn says.

Prince is still bouncing around like he has an inner spring.

"He kinda goes crazy," Howard laughs.

He pours some dog food into a large can lid that doubles as a food bowl in the yard. Prince pauses before eating, wanting a hug from Howard before he eats.

Howard explains that's their little food-time tradition.

Howard tries to sum up their volunteer drive. He says just remember, they love helping people.

"Keeps you kind of busy," Howard says. "It gives you purpose to get up in the morning."

We have Capital One Bank and the United Way's Volunteer Center to thank as WAFB's partner in the Power of 9 awards.

Profiles of these outstanding people appear on WAFB 9News at 6 the last Thursday of the month. If you'd like to nominate someone, please contact the Capital Area United Way.

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