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Krewe with a Cause: New civic club targets environment, community needs

FRANKLIN LIVING— It all started when one Russellville woman was reliving her high school days of twirling a flag in the color guard. A passing thought – “Wouldn’t it be neat if a bunch of us color guard girls got together and did routines?” – led to the creation of what might well be called a movement in Franklin County.

Founder Anna Carol Porter calls it Krewe de Guard.

Porter was talking over her idea for a color guard reunion with a friend who lives in New Orleans, and she said her friend’s encouragement set her on a path to get the ball rolling – with her eyes set on getting a group together in time to celebrate Mardi Gras 2020. Her plans quickly grew beyond a simple gathering of old color guard friends to target creating a civic and social club on a mission to save the world – or at least make a difference.

Another realization also helped Porter shape her plans. As a member of the Book Lovers Study Club in Russellville, she said she began to notice one truth distinctly: all her fellow club members were her mother’s age. “I’m the youngest one in there, and I noticed there’s not really a club of younger people, and we needed one,” explained Porter, 34. “So many of us were involved in various clubs in high school and showed leadership, but we’re just not doing it in our community.”

From Feb. 4, 2019, when Porter had her first spark of an idea, Krewe de Guard grew slowly at first. Porter began floating the idea by friends like Maletha Walker and Marlena Young Jones, discussing everything from what kind of events the new group could host – like a gingerbread contest or a fun run – to how Krewe de Guard could be a force for good in the community, from funding scholarships for arts students to leading environmental efforts.

“When I would see people I went to school with who I thought would be interested, I would give them a brief of what was going on,” Porter said. She found her ideas were met with overwhelming enthusiasm, and Krewe de Guard began to pick up speed.

As the 2020 Mardi Gras season approached, Porter said she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to pull off her intended inaugural event. As an actress in the Historic Zodiac Playhouse’s rendition of “Chicago,” Porter said a demanding rehearsal schedule seemed to mean her dream of a Russellville Mardi Gras parade was going to be a no-go for 2020. When the production got moved back, however, and rehearsals took a temporary back seat, Porter thought a Mardi Gras parade might be in Krewe de Guard’s reach after all.

The only problem was that Mardi Gras season was already in full swing, and the optimal opportunity for a local parade was less than two weeks away.

“My team is amazing. It’s full of decorators, creators and doers,” Porter said. With such a team behind her, she knew they could pull it off. The last hitch was getting the Russellville Public Library – which Porter had selected as the first beneficiary of a Krewe de Guard event – on board. One day she met with library director Ashley Cummins, and the next day she met with the library board, changing their skepticism into cautious optimism with her own confidence. “We can do this, if you’ll allow it,” Porter told the board. With board president Lela Ray out of town, Porter had to get her final permission by phone. Perhaps it was fate that Ray had, in fact, traveled to a Mardi Gras event, and Porter was able to quickly garner her support – and, as a bonus, to line up the grand marshal for her parade.

“We worked night after night at the library and some of the Krewe de Guard’s members’ houses,” said Porter, whose team created signage and costumes and worked logistics tirelessly to let the good times roll in Russellville. A few days later, Feb. 8, downtown Russellville welcomed its first Mardi Gras parade – and Krewe de Guard celebrated its first successful event, raising more than $600 for the library.

Of course, parades are nothing new to Russellville, with the Christmas, Veterans Day and Homecoming parades being community favorites. The Krewe de Guard parade, however, brought a little something different to the streets with its environmentally-friendly focus.

The parade welcomed only non-motorized vehicles, like golf carts, bicycles and scooters, and there was no plastic used in the parade. Porter said all signage and other supplies will be recycled and reused in next year’s parade, and the Krewe put a particular focus on keeping the streets clean of the debris often left behind after such an event. “You should leave a space the way you found it,” said Porter. “Being on this earth, I feel like I have an obligation to be a good steward of the earth and do what I can to get people to notice what’s going on.” Parade participants did not toss beads, for the same reason, but took care to intentionally hand out beads and MoonPies, as one way to help eliminate the potential for litter. In conjunction with the event, the Krewe de Guard also donated money to plant 32 trees – 20 in the Amazon and 12 in California. Porter harbors a passion for caring for the environment and reversing humanity’s carbon footprint, and it’s a concern shared by her fellow Krewe members.

“The mission is so important because we as a people have to be aware of the things that are going on around us,” said Tammy West, 37. “It’s deeper than what we think. Our world is deeply being affected when we don’t make simple choices. As a whole, if we work together, the impact  that Krewe de Guard could make might start off little, but I feel we could change the world. When you get passionate people together, you can change the world.

“I got involved because I love what Krewe de Guard stands for,” West added, “and I love how passionate AC is about the environment and things that truly matter.”

“I joined Krewe because I think it’s an admirable goal to encourage younger adults to be involved with the community through other organizations and community events,” agreed David Atkins, 28. “I think the Mardi Gras parade went well for Krewe’s first event. I’m pretty certain it was the first emission-free, litter-free parade for Russellville to ever have. I’m a lover of the outdoors; one of my biggest pet peeves is litter. Hopefully this can start a trend where other parades in town want to be litter free. At the very least we can raise awareness of environmental issues or show a way of doing things in a more environmentally friendly way.”

West and Atkins are two of the 23 people who now make up Krewe de Guard, and Porter said all those who are interested are welcome – both people who live in Franklin County as well as those who perhaps have moved away but would like to be involved when they come back to visit. There is no membership fee; members just have to commit to the mission and help with Krewe projects through their time or monetary donations.

“It’s so much more than what I thought it would be. It grew fast, and I was very happy with how many people wanted to join,” Porter said. “My personality is to get things done. I knew it wasn’t about me; I can’t do anything without a team.” Porter said getting younger people – Krewe de Guard targets roughly those in their mid-20s through early 40s, although that is by no means a strict guideline – involved in the community is crucial to seeing Franklin County grow and improve. “We’re the next generation. The clubs right now are our parents and grandparents,” she said. “Who’s passing on the torch? We live here. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing our part to help.”

Porter said Krewe de Guard aims to pull off about seven events this year. The next event is now in the planning stages.

“I hope it will last,” said Porter, who is already envisioning the way future generations might pick up that torch of community involvement and environmental living. “I hope Krewe will stay as long as any other club that has been going on.”

For more information or to join Krewe de Guard, call Porter at 256-668-2830.