JA of Hattiesburg honors Pine Belt resident for Humanitarian of the Year

Updated: Nov. 1, 2019 at 5:26 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Uplifting spirits while making a difference.

Mary Clayton Dunn, president of the Junior Auxiliary of Hattiesburg, said the organization works with schools, non-profit organizations and other groups that reach out to them that need assistance if they are doing things that meets the mission of JA.

"We go into schools, we work with other non-profits, we work with groups who reach out to us and say they need assistance,” said Dunn. “If what they are doing meets our mission of caring for children to help build their character and meet their needs today to build their character tomorrow, we are going to do everything we can to help out."

With a focus on children, Dunn says nearly 100 members make up this local chapter. From vision screenings to backpack and diaper drives, their hands and hearts are dedicated to service.

"Basic needs, social, emotional and other needs,” said Dunn. “Anything we can do to improve the lives of children, that's our main focus."

Not only are members working throughout local communities, they are honoring those who also have a passion for selfless service. Pine Belt resident Kent Oliver has a passion for helping others after diagnosed with cancer more than four years ago.

"I started having treatment that was really, really impactful. It took me away from my family for a few weeks,” said Oliver. “During that process I was really fortunate to be joined by a couple of good friends from Hattiesburg who came up there along with my wife and between the three of us really started laughing again for the first time in a while."

That’s when Laughs4Life was born. A local organization supporting cancer research.

Oliver said laughter matters in our lives whenever we get impacted with significant health events like cancer, or life in general.

"Laughter really matters,” said Oliver. “Laughter in our own life whenever we get impacted whether it be cancer or another significant health event, or life in general that all of a sudden throws you a curve ball, laughter can be a very powerful thing."

Laughs4Life brings community members together each year for a night of fun and of course, laughter, all in an effort to make a difference in the lives of others.

This year, JA members proudly name Oliver as the 2019 Humanitarian of the Year. Dunn said JA were thrilled to have Kent Oliver selected for the honor this year.

"This year we were thrilled to have Kent Oliver selected. He has done so much, and we are grateful to Kent for what he's doing to make Hattiesburg better and make lives better," said Dunn.

His organization has raised nearly $600,000 within the past four years helping to fund cancer research and enhance patient quality of life.

As members within these organizations continue to work tirelessly, Dunn says the effects are humbling.

“It’s just really amazing to know you’re making a difference, to know that you’re providing things for these kids that maybe they are not getting anywhere else.”

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