For more than 65 years, this St. Francisville nonprofit has worked to ensure that all West Fel’s children come to school equipped to succeed in the classroom.
Making a difference in your community doesn’t necessarily require masses of volunteers or piles of money. Sometimes all you need is a few determined people who want to help, and a common goal: ensuring that every student is equipped to succeed in the classroom. As it turns out, when it comes to improving educational outcomes, making sure that kids have the right school supplies can go a long way.
Happi Llandiers, Inc. has a long history of serving West Feliciana’s school children. For more than 65 years, the St. Francisville non-profit organization—founded by a group of teachers in 1955—has ensured that every student has the support and the tools they need to receive a quality education.
“We like giving back to the community,” says Executive Director Helen Whitfield. “We want to empower every child to meet their potential.” Whitfield is only the third director to lead Happi Llandiers since its inception.
In the organization’s early years, with segregationist schooling policies still separating Black students from white, current and former educators of the Solitude community came together to strategize how they could improve daily attendance among the parish’s Black children, who often missed class because they had to work to survive. These teachers worked to raise money by soliciting donations from area businesses, and pooled their own resources to help prepare underprivileged students to learn.
While the group and its impact has grown exponentially during the decades since, the mission has remained the same. At the start of each academic year, Happi Llandiers holds a back-to-school expo to distribute resources including school supplies, uniforms, and food to hundreds of local families in need. “We work so hard to pack the supplies so the kids will have a good start to the school year,” Whitfield says.
Their mission is one that Bank of St. Francisville believes in, too. BSF has participated in the Happi Llandiers Back-to-School Workshop for nearly 20 years.
“We love being able to give back to our community, and Happi Llandiers has provided essential school items for those students and their families that may not be able to afford them,” says BSF’s Vice President of Consumer Lending, Janis Crutchfield. “Having served on the Happi Llandiers board for a number of years, I’ve seen first-hand the wonderful work that’s provided by this organization.”
Then, in 1987, Happi Llandiers became a United Way Agency—a designation that enabled the organization to broaden its reach, and saw its operating budget grow to exceed $100,000. This allowed Happi Llandiers to expand its services, adding uniform assistance, after-school tutoring, summer day camp, and a teen pregnancy prevention program to the annual supply drive.
The origins of Happi Llandiers are deeply rooted in family and community, and both Whitfield and her sister, Sharon Eames, have participated in the effort since childhood. Decades later, the next generation of the same family is making its own philanthropic mark on the community.
Three of the sisters’ children—Chad Eames, Chase Eames, and Brittany Whitfield—started the Backpack Project in 2017, a foundation that provides kids in need across the parish with a new Jansport backpack. In 2019, they fundraised enough money to give away nearly 400 backpacks at the Happi Llandiers’ annual distribution event.
The group’s name is taken from John James Audubon’s affectionate moniker for St. Francisville: “Happy Land.” With the work the group undertakes to ensure that every West Feliciana child have access to a quality education, the Happi Llandiers are proving each and every year what community is really all about.
- Happi Llandiers gratefully accepts contributions of time, talent, and charitable donations. For information on how you can volunteer, or to donate to Happi Llandiers, call (225) 635-2301.
- For more West Feliciana Parish-area nonprofits you can contribute to, click here.
- For tips on how your charitable donation can count as a tax deduction, click here or call 225-635-6397 to schedule an appointment. To get more community stories like these in your inbox, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, This Month on Commerce Street, here.