Everyday Heroes: Small army of volunteers essential to annual cook-offPublished 12:01am Friday, August 29, 2014
NATCHEZ — With an army of one, Tammy Prince knows when it is time to call in the reserves.
As the director of the United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou, Prince plans the organization’s annual jambalaya cook-off, an event that kicks off their annual campaign and draws hundreds to the Natchez Convention Center each August.
As the organization’s lone employee, Prince knows she can’t put on the biggest fundraiser of the year by herself.
“I couldn’t do it without my volunteers,” Prince said. “There is no other way.”
As the jambalaya cookers fired up Thursday morning, Prince’s volunteer troops showed up make final preparations for the event. At the entrance, Donna Smith, Cheryl LeBlanc, Dr. Brenda Moore and Barbara Lomasney prepared to collect tickets from hungry residents. Ryan Richardson plated up food and helped with the judging.
“I know when I call (my volunteers), I know they are going to be there for me,” Prince said.
Chakatria Johnson has been helping Prince since 2011 when she was the director of the local rape crisis center for Catholic Charities.
Now Johnson is the child mental health therapist for the Natchez Children’s Home Child Advocacy Center.
As busy as she is with her regular job, Johnson said she will always take time to help Prince and the United Way.
“I always tell her, ‘I will be free if you need me to,’” Johnson said.
Johnson met Prince when she was working for Catholic Charities and tries to help out with as many United Way events as possible.
As someone who works and has worked for a United Way agency, Johnson said she appreciates the support United Way gives. She also knows first-hand how important volunteers are when she needs help.
“When something is going on that is this big, we all pitch in and lend a helping hand,” Johnson said.
Before the doors opened, Johnson helped setup and decorate tables. During the event, Johnson worked with Cathedral Key Club students pouring Cokes and Sprites. After the event, Johnson collected tablecloths, cleaned tables and helped pack everything up.
Despite everything that needs to be done, Johnson says she doesn’t see the work she does as a job.
“When you are volunteering, you get more enjoyment out of participating than looking at it as just work,” Johnson said. “It’s more of a privilege.”