DENHAM SPRINGS -- One word comes to mind when Debra Keller thinks of the Denham Springs Community Floral and Civic Club.
Love is what brought a group of 10 women together to collect flowers to place near the graves of deceased community members; it’s what made those women decide to expand their service, hoping to fulfill the needs of the community they lived in; it’s what kept those women together, even as some of their beloved friends slowly passed away, for 50 years and counting.
This was a celebration five decades in the making, and to Keller, it was all about love.
“You don’t do anything for 50 years if there’s no love involved,” Rev. Keller said, drawing shouts of agreement from a packed house inside the L.M. Lockhart Center. “You must love what you do, or it won’t last.”
Love was the theme of the day when people of all ages gathered to honor the Denham Springs Community Floral and Civic Club for 50 years of service during its annual anniversary celebration on Jan. 26.
The program — held less than two blocks away from where the outreach organization started on Central Street — featured music, sermons, prayer, a pinning ceremony and dinner as people celebrated a group of women one speaker called “jewels” in the community.
Wearing crisp blue blazers and matching blue dresses, Floral and Civic Club members were commemorated for their work over the last half-century, which includes school uniform and supply drives, scholarship opportunities, senior citizen programs, prayer walks, an annual Thanksgiving dinner and voter registration.
Ten club members were present for the ceremony, including Lois Deemer, Martha Lockhart, Idella Thomas and President Mary Boyd, who’ve all been with the club since it was officially organized as the Central Street Floral Club on Feb. 9, 1969.
“I call them the ‘OG’s,’” joked Yvette Griffin, Thomas’ daughter, who served as the program’s mistress of ceremony.
During her opening, Griffin explained the history of the club, which expanded from Central Street to the Denham Springs community at large about 10 years after its formation.
The club’s mission was small in the beginning — along with flower donations, members went door-to-door handing out fruit bags, mostly because they couldn’t afford baskets — but it rapidly grew as members became more dedicated to the cause.
Over the years, the Floral and Civic Club has helped people register to vote, tutored local students after school, prayed as they walked the streets of Denham Springs, paid locker fees, sponsored local schools and invited senior citizens to appreciation programs.
And none of it would’ve happened without love, said Keller, associate pastor at Roberts United Methodist Church and the evening’s guest speaker.
“Love has held them together for 50 years,” said Keller, the daughter of the club’s president, Boyd. “Love is the most important duty for us as believers. We must love, the way these ladies have loved.”
On a table near the entrance of the Lockhart Center was a collection of photographs documenting the club’s history. Above the photos and newspaper clippings sat a plaque the club received following a community-wide march and ceremony celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life on Jan. 21.
It was the first public recognition of any kind for the Floral and Civic Club, and it marked the first time the Denham Springs Martin Luther King Jr., Task Force bestowed its annual award to an entire group, not an individual.
But it was something Chairman Fred Banks felt was well-deserved — a notion supported by the 100-plus people in the sanctuary who gave the club a standing ovation during the MLK Day program.
“This club has done so many things, large and small,” Banks said at the time. “They help, and they’re still going. They have a love for community and a love for church.”
That love is the reason for it all, Boyd said.
“We just enjoy serving others where there’s a need,” Boyd said. “If there’s any little thing we can do to help, we want to do it. We’ve been a group of women who have always worked together from the beginning, and we’ve had that love and passion as Christian people to help the community. That’s why it went from one street to the whole community.”
Following the pinning ceremony and Keller’s remarks, Boyd was called to the podium to address the crowd. She thanked everyone for coming, joking that “everybody has said everything I was planning to say.”
But instead of thinking of the club’s past, Boyd focused on its future.
“Y’all continue to pray for us as we press on,” she said.