Founder Suzanne Howell
“Faith, hope, love: But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
JOTS believes that every child deserves recognition on his/her birthday! Founded almost ten years ago by Suzanne (Achee) Howell, the mission of JOTS is to bring the magic of birthday parties, graduations, and other special events to children living in group homes or shelters and to plant the seeds of Christian beliefs.
Currently, JOTS serves youth (ages 10-17)residing at Cornerstone, a group home located within Lafourche Parish Juvenile Justice Facility in Thibodaux, LA, and Macdonell Children’s Home in Houma, LA. Both homes are for boys and girls who cannot remain with their families for various reasons: neglect, domestic violence, physical, sexual or substance abuse, or incarcerated parents.
How did JOTS begin? In 2011 Suzanne Achee (now Howell) was teaching high school. Her student Corey, who loved football and basketball and expressed his feelings through writing poetry, shared with her how he had bounced around in the foster system and was settling in at Cornerstone, the local group home. A couple of coaches and teachers found out it was Corey’s upcoming 14th birthday and wanted to do something special for him. While all the kids were out during recess, they invited him to a classroom and surprised him with a cake and gifts. Corey cried and said he never had a birthday party. Over the next couple of weeks, Suzanne decided it was time to visit this group home and meet the other residents. She tagged along with her school’s librarian to visit the facility. There, Suzanne met 16 -year- old Derrick and found out that his birthday was coming soon. She asked if he would like a party, and he responded, “Well, yes! No one has ever given me a party!” Two teenagers in one month, and both had never celebrated their special day. It was a God wink and the beginning of this new ministry!
JOTS birthday parties last about one hour. Volunteers arrive a few minutes early to set up the decorations. A couple of weeks before their special day, the birthday boy/girl chooses a theme, type of cake, and a wish list of special gifts. A typical party includes cake, ice cream, drinks, snacks, and take-home prizes for all the children! It’s all about making “our” kids smile! It’s the little things taken for granted -like playing Hot Potato or Musical Chairs- and realizing that these games are new to many children. Party themes have included princess, wrestling, My Little Pony, camouflage, Sweet 16, and a beach theme complete with pineapples and flamingos! JOTS strives to make our foster children feel wanted and special, and if for only one hour they forget about their painful past experiences, it has accomplished its goal.
JOTS has expanded to “beyond the birthday” party. Because of the tremendous support from community organizations and generous individuals, JOTS sponsors other events such as Swamp tours, Christmas parties, art lessons, driver’s ed lessons, prom and homecoming outfits, back to school shoes/bags, bedding/towels/toiletries baskets, graduation celebrations, college dorm supplies, and aging-out-of-foster care showers.
With Covid 19 restrictions and keeping the children safe, JOTS is not hosting face-to-face events. However, it continues the ministry through drop-off boxes.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). Over the last several years, local organizations continue to bless this mission! JOTS friends include Thibodaux Service League, Nicholls State University Tri Sigma Sorority, Femmes Natales, First United Methodist Church of Thibodaux, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, LeBlanc Bros. Lemonade Stand, and TaWaSi.
JOTS stands for “Johnny on the Spot,” named in memory of the founder’s husband, Johnny Achee, who died at 48 in a tragic accident. His love for his children and grandchildren lives on as JOTS delivers hope, compassion, and smiles! JOTS has a straightforward mission but so profound in its meaning. When volunteers show up, it says to the child, “You are NOT forgotten.” JOTS stands firm in its belief “Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
JOTS is a 501 3(c) charitable organization, and 100% of its donations go directly to the children. JOTS has no administrative costs. See updated events at jotsbirthday.org or “like” JOTS Birthdays on Facebook.
Contact info: Suzanne Howell
Cell: (985) 860-0256