Girl asks for food donors instead of gift

Published 5:24 am Friday, February 17, 2017

During Bowling Green School student Layla Ladner’s most recent birthday, she decided to play the role of gift giver, instead of gift getter.

Layla turned 8 not too long ago, but rather than asking for presents, she asked guests to her birthday party to bring donations of food for the Washington Parish Food Bank in Franklinton.

Layla, the daughter of Jennifer and Nick Ladner of Pine, came up with the idea after telling her mother that she did not need anything new for her birthday.

“I told her that there are places all around that need help,” Jennifer said. “I said, you could always do a fund-raiser, but I’m leaving it up to you. She said, ‘instead of gifts, I’d like to do a food drive for the food bank.’ So on the party invitations, we asked for the guests to bring a few canned food items, and it sort of spiraled from there.”

That donation collection expanded even more, as the family turned another sad event into an additional opportunity to help others. Around the same time as Layla’s birthday, her great-grandmother Rosetta James passed away.

At James’ funeral, which was held on the same day as Layla’s birthday, those who planned to attend were asked to bring food donations as well.

“It went from asking 10 people to bring food instead of presents, to having probably about 100 people donating,” Jennifer said. “We still had the birthday party, of course, after the funeral, and we ended up with a carload of food to bring to the food bank.”

Garland Provost, co-director of the Washington Parish Food Bank, said that Layla and her mother visited Tuesday, Jan. 31, and dropped off more than 250 cans and other assorted food items. The food bank helps more than 400 families who use the charity each month, Provost said.

“Thank you, Layla, for your loving and caring heart and for making a difference in our community,” said Provost, who reached out to The Daily News to tell Layla’s story.

Jennifer said she was overwhelmed by her daughter’s generosity.

“It made me very proud to be her mother,” she said. “Her dad and I try to instill in her those values to serve others over yourself. We’re Christians, and we believe in living a Christian life and doing good for your neighbor. I almost broke down in tears when she told me what she wanted to do. It blessed me.

“It proved to me that she’s listening and we are doing our job as parents to raise upstanding citizens who care about their neighbors.”

Jennifer said that her daughter wants to continue helping the food bank, and even asked about possibly volunteering on spring break or during the summer.

“She has a very big heart,” she said. “She loves community service. I don’t want to force her to do it, but if she wants to do it on her own, I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

Jennifer said that the family was humbled that food bank staff sought to tell Layla’s story to the public, and she hoped that her daughter’s example would encourage others.

“Eight is very young, but it’s not too young to do something nice for others,” she said. “I’m hoping that it will encourage others to help their food banks as well. Maybe it will create a movement.”