Diaspora

Louisiana educator teaching the next generation to give back – Clay Center Dispatch

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Updated: December 4, 2021 @ 6:43 am

WESTLAKE, La. (AP) — Brandi Felice, a Westlake resident, takes pride in her city and the best way she knows how to do this is by giving back.
“My dad built my love of being part of the community. He’d always bring us to parades and fireworks. That’s where I felt like I wanted to help out in our community,” she said.
Felice has taught school in Westlake for 18 years and has raised her family in the city, as well. “Our city is not as beautiful as it could be on the outside but if people knew how special we are — our community, our people, our kids and our schools … I couldn’t imagine raising our kids anywhere else.”
To keep Westlake one of the “best-kept secrets” in the area, Felice said volunteering and teaching the next generation to give back is very important. Four years ago she joined the Westlake Rotary Club, where she enjoys coming up with unique service projects.
One such event was passing out kindness notes and mints to customers at two local Westlake restaurants.
“Just seeing their (customer’s) expressions was the best part, maybe. In the beginning when we would hand them something they would think we wanted them to buy something, but when they’d read ‘You’re special,’ it would just put a smile on their face.”
Another original idea was last summer’s Red, White and Blue patriotism event where flags were placed in residents’ yards to celebrate the season and raise money for a handicap swing at Westwood Elementary.
“When you think about it, these kids (handicap children) at recess, there’s nothing for them to play on. To put them in the special needs swing and they can actually do something, that really made their face light up!”
Making sure that all Westlake residents feel special and appreciated is an important part of Felice’s volunteer work even outside of her civic club. During the peak of the COVID-19 shut-down, she helped to host a Class of 2020 senior parade.
“They didn’t even know if they’d be able to have their ceremony, awards or graduation that year. We ended up having a wonderful turn out with the fire truck and over 50 seniors riding through the neighborhood. They were so appreciative because they really did miss out on so much that year.”
Naturally, as a teacher, passing down community spirit to the next generation is very important to Felice. She recently helped start the Early Act Club at Westwood Elementary, which serves as a sort of young Rotarians club.
Since its start, the club has collected items for the veterans home in Jennings and built a Buddy Bench.
“It’s a place where kids can sit at recess if they’re lonely and our club members can go, join them and invite them to play with them. The kids each painted a board, too, and we put all the boards together to help make the bench.”
Felice has high hopes for the club. “I’m just excited to see the kids who want to give back.”
In addition to Rotary, Felice also volunteers with her church and Mardi Gras Krewe du Sauvage.
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