New MADD chapter forms in Florida Parishes

Published 4:25 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

Family members of people killed by drunk drivers have joined with other concerned community members and formed a local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Co-Chairperson Elisa Smith said area residents who wanted to be involved in MADD previously had to drive to Baton Rouge for meetings, functions and fundraisers. Now, locals can be involved in the Florida Parishes Chapter, which was formed in November and is open to people in Washington and all of the Florida Parishes.

MADD is a nonprofit organization that works to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking. It supports victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving as well, serving one person every eight minutes at no charge.

“MADD’s goal is to increase the number of victims and survivors served, and to continually improve the quality of those services,” Smith said, adding it also works to instill a mindset among people that if they’re going to drink, they need to have a designated driver.

The organization supports Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, a national drunk driving crackdown.

When officers conduct checkpoints, for example, Smith said members of MADD will show their support and appreciation by providing water and helping out however they can.

Most who join the organization are family members of victims, but Smith said there is also participation from law enforcement and other community members who just want to get involved.

She is one of the members who was personally impacted by drunk driving. Her 13-year-old son, Andre’ Queen, and his cousin, LaDarius Favorite, were killed by a drunk driver in Baton Rouge on April 6, 2008.

Smith said that is why she got involved with MADD.

Participation was too difficult at that time, but this year she’s stronger, she said.

She believes the organization helps the families because MADD is like a big family itself, and its members are all sharing the same pain.

One of the chapter’s first activities was handing out ribbons during the 15-Mile Yard Sale held in Tangipahoa Parish in early November. Smith said that was part of the Tie One on For Safety campaign, which asks drivers to to place a MADD red ribbon in a visible place in their vehicle during the holiday season.

The chapter also placed its first MADD Christmas tree at the parish courthouse this season and held a ceremony when it went up. Seen on the tree were about 100 ornaments with the pictures of drunk driving victims, ranging from newborn babies to grandparents.

The tree, strung with white lights, was on display from November through Jan. 2. For each drunk driving death during that period one white bulb was replaced with a red one. Two bulbs were changed this season, Smith said.

The chapter’s big project right now is planning a Walk Like MADD event, tentatively scheduled to take place in April. During the event, people will join in a 2- to 3-mile walk. Smith said teams will be formed and a fundraising goal will be set, with the proceeds going to MADD services such as billboards promoting awareness of drunk driving.

The Florida Parishes Chapter would like to see community support of this event and will be searching out people who want to get involved.

Smith said Walk Like MADD will include presentations from local ambulance personnel, police and firefighters to educate people on the dangers of drinking and driving.

Further details about the event will be discussed and planned during the group’s February meeting, Smith said.

For more information about MADD or the chapter’s monthly meeting schedule, contact Smith at 264-3500; her husband, Olander Smith, at 966-2100; or Chairperson Paula Zachary at 748-6047.