Women Serving the Bayou // Volunteerism

by Tatum Gehbauer

by Jessica Taylor

Service leagues around the United States focus on helping their communities and local businesses. Specifically to South Louisiana, the Thibodaux Service League, Ta-Wa-Si Civic Club, and Femmes Natales are groups comprised of female members that focus on helping local schools, universities, businesses, and the community.

Thibodaux Service League

Thibodaux Service League works closely with the community in more than a dozen community projects. TSL puts together six distinctive fundraising events throughout the year.

Kristi Gravois, former president of the Thibodaux Service League, explains how the service league has benefited the community.

“Each year we give about $25,000 back to the community. By doing these things we’re supporting the community and local businesses,” she says.

Gravois, who was born and raised in Morgan City, La., is part of the TSL for ten consecutive years. For two of those years, she served as the league’s president.

After finishing college and having a child, the positive work the service league was doing in the community inspired Gravois to join.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping others and when the time was right, I decided to join the Thibodaux Service League and I immediately fell in love,” Gravois says.

TSL was incorporated in 1974, after a group of 16 young women decided to form an organization on whose purposes would be educational and charitable.

Currently the league has 143 sustaining members that, in other words, are local women “who have served for 6 years or done 300 hours of service for Thibodaux and the surrounding communities.”

Gravois credits much of the league’s success to the women in charge and those who have helped her.

“Women in South Louisiana are truly one of a kind. They are humble, hard-working, genuine, and they never meet a stranger,” Gravois says.

Women throughout the league are always willing to help and provide for the community any way they can.

“People throughout the community will reach out to us for service help and we do whatever we can to help those in need,” Gravois says.

Along with Gravois, Katherine Elias is a league member and will serve as the Vice President for the upcoming year.

Elias is involved in the making of the new Service League Legacy Cookbook, Santa’s Land sponsorship, Cinderella’s Closet and other community projects. Elias has been involved in the league for 3 years. “The rewarding feeling of helping people in need throughout the community is something I’ll cherish forever,” she says.

Community Projects & Fundraisers

To support the greater Thibodaux community, the league is involved with businesses and organizations such as the Bayou Country Children’s Museum, Crossroads, Hope for Animals, Upside Downs and the St. Francis Vegetable Garden.

The league is also involved with Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of Lafourche Parish (CASA), the Office of Juvenile Justice, and the Lafourche Parish Library, and the league assists the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux Toy Drive through which toys for needy children are collected and distributed over the holidays.

Cinderella’s Closet, another community project the service league is involved with, takes place once a year around the time of prom and the ROTC ball. Through this event, TSL provides dresses and accessories, including shoes, jewelry, and handbags, to young women who may not be able to afford these things. The event is hosted at Thibodaux High School.

In addition to community projects, there are many fundraisers put on by the Thibodaux Service League to help the community, schools, and local businesses. From a daddy-daughter dance to a holiday market, Thibodaux Service League works to make serving the community fun.

Other Service Organizations

Many other women’s service organizations around South Louisiana help the community.

The Ta-Wa-Si civic club was formed in 1947 and took its name from an Indian word meaning friends, or helper. Through annual antique shows, the club contributes to projects, schools, and charities within the South Louisiana region.

One of the organization’s many contributions includes tuition scholarships awarded annually to local students who need assistance to attend Nicholls State University. The club’s proceeds benefit students at Nicholls to ensure the future of scholarship opportunities.

Along with Thibodaux Service League and Ta-Wa-Si, Femmes Natales is a non-profit organization which serves the Thibodaux community, as well as other communities throughout the year.

Femmes Natales’ Annual Runabout was hosted this past October, and the beneficiaries were Isaiah Barnett and St. Francis Vegetable Garden.

Isaiah Barnett, 17-months-old, was born with neuroblastoma, which is a rare but aggressive cancer that usually attacks infants and toddlers.

At seven months Isaiah began to have bruising and experienced bulging around his eyes. After going to the doctor, he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Since the diagnoses, Isaiah has undergone 12 rounds of chemotherapy, which has been extremely hard on Isaiah’s body, as well as his family.

Along with the Barnett family, a portion of the proceeds benefited the St. Francis Vegetable Garden.

The garden’s purpose is to grow and harvest vegetables to donate to the local food banks, provide a living, and support growers by educating the community about fresh, healthy foods.

Women in South Louisiana put others needs before their own, and are always willing to lend a helping hand. So, “Look at This” to learn more about the women who have impacted our community in so many ways.

Meet these Bayou Women Who Serve