BR woman celebrates birthday by giving back

In celebration of her 25th birthday, Tiffany Anthony was surrounded by a crowd awaiting the traditional festivity staples of cake, home-cooked food and a group rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

But Anthony’s gathering wasn’t about her; in fact, she was the one giving.

Anthony and several friends and family gathered on Saturday, the day before her birthday, at the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless Services Center near downtown, where they distributed 106 plate lunches full of red beans and rice, fried chicken and cake — Anthony’s selfless birthday wish.

“My parents asked what I wanted for my birthday,” Anthony said. “I told them I wanted to give back to the community.”

Anthony’s parents, Marilyn and Shelton, were happy to help fulfill their daughter’s wish. So, the trio worked throughout Friday and into Saturday morning preparing the meals.

“We bought everything and cooked until the morning,” Marilyn said. “This was a great idea.”

Plate lunch recipients lined up shortly after noon, eagerly awaiting their turn to pick up a Styrofoam box filled to the brim with homemade, hot food.

Anthony advertised her outreach effort prior to Saturday with flyers at the “One-Stop” homeless services center.

The CAAH Services Center is staffed by people who work to alleviate homelessness in the Baton Rouge area by offering services such as transitional housing, employment assistance, substance abuse treatment and life skills training.

Anthony’s flier caught the attention of Larry Mills, a plate-lunch recipient from St. Louis.

“This is great she is doing this,” Mills, smiling broadly, said of Anthony’s community outreach effort.

To show his appreciation for Anthony’s generosity, he strummed his guitar and got those around him to join in singing “Happy Birthday.”

Baton Rouge native John Tallant quickly matched Mills’ tone with his harmonica among the flurry of voices singing in unison.

Anthony, a Baton Rouge resident, works for Louisiana Industries for the Disabled or UpLIFTD, a nonprofit focused on helping those with disabilities, the homeless or those with barriers inhibiting employment; however, her community event Saturday had no affiliation with the organization.

Helping the less fortunate is what Anthony does on a regular basis and she excels at it, said Nicole Walker, assistant executive director of UpLIFTD.

“She has such a kind spirit, and she’s an inspiration,” Walker said. “That’s just who she is.”

Anthony said a family barbecue is planned for Sunday to further celebrate her birthday. But she said she’s already looking forward to next year and another possible outreach effort.