BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When Bertha Arrington told me all the things Ms. Hattie B. Johnson was involved in, I became immediately exhausted!
Ms. Hattie B's weekly volunteer work begins on Thursdays at the Veterans Hospital across from Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. Every Thursday "Hattie B" serves veterans with snacks and helps where needed around the facility.
She is an active member of Capitol City Temple #978, Daughters of Elks club where she serves as financial secretary. She has held the office of financial secretary of this great order of Elks for the past 10 years.
"Hattie B" volunteers with St. Vincent de Paul where she donates food, clothing, toys and other gifts throughout the year.
But wait, that's not all. Other organizations where "Hattie B" gives her service in volunteer capacities are:
- The American Legion Auxiliary at Ricard-Stewart #505
- The Livingston Parish Federal Credit Union where she was inducted into the Louisiana Credit Union’s Hall of Fame in 2010 in New Orleans and was elected credit
- union secretary for the 43rd year and was appointed one of its five directors
- The Order of Eastern Star – Prince Hall affiliated
- The Nettie Carter Jackson Council of Elks where she received P.S.P. degree in 1992
- A member of Second Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. Leo Cyrus, Pastor.
Whew! I'm worn out! But of course "Hattie B" is half my age, right? Wrong! Ms. Hattie B. Johnson is 89 years old!
What? This cannot possibly be right.
"Well it is," Ms. Bertha assured me. "And she can still mentally do all of the things that she does, especially in her role of financial secretary for the Elks!"
"This is my nominee Johnny," Ms. Bertha told me as we discussed an upcoming Hand It On segment on WAFB. "And here's what I'd like to do," Bertha carefully outlined her plan.
See Bertha is also a member of The Elks, and the 89th Louisiana State Association of Elks annual convention is to be held in Baton Rouge.
"I'd like to publicly recognize "Hattie B" during the opening session of the state convention," Bertha explained. "I'll have to get it approved by the state convention but I cannot imagine them having a problem with this. It will be great press for the Elks too!"
Permission was indeed gr anted. So WAFB's Hand It On team showed up at the Baton Rouge Marriott on June 23, 2016 and met Ms. Bertha outside the conference room.
"We'll have the room dedication, then opening processional," Bertha explained the morning format. "Then after the invocation and welcome, I'll get up and surprise Hattie B. with the Hand It On award."
We stood in the back of the room. At the appropriate time Ms. Bertha took the microphone.
"Ya know, you've seen him on TV with his Hand It On thing, Mr. Johnny Ahysen. Well we have one among us today who is worthy of all the recognition we can give her." Ms. Bertha addressed the entire room and avoided eye contact with "Hattie B" who had been seated on the front row below the podium.
After going through the lengthy list of just some of the ways "Hattie B" gives back to the community, Ms. Bertha asked, "So I know maybe now you know who I'm talking about. This lady; this teacher; this Elk; this retiree; has never lost it up here," Ms. Bertha pointed to her head.
"We are so proud of you Hattie B. And we give you this $300 to do whatever. This is our nominee, Ms. Hattie B. Johnson," Bertha concluded as she assisted "Hattie B" to a chair at the front of the room, facing the audience, now on their feet applauding.
"I don't know what to say," a very surprised and very humbled Hattie B. as she accepted the award and recognition.
But Hattie B. was surprised again when her granddaughter walked up from her secluded place inside the room and embraced her with a huge hug.
"It's good I got a good heart!" Hattie B. exclaimed, hugging her granddaughter.
Hattie B. Johnson redefines "giving" and takes community outreach to a new, higher level. But so do all the Elks we met that day at the Marriott. All of them.
To nominate someone for WAFB's Hand It On award, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure to include your contact information, especially your phone number.