Brad Franzio: Paying the kindness he received forward

Published 1:31 pm Monday, February 21, 2022

Brad Franzio, a Lake Charles resident, knows first hand the importance of community. Growing up in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, Franzio said his family was often the beneficiary of charity projects from neighborhood churches and non-profits.

“It’s not like we were destitute. It’s just that it was a way of life for our family,” he said. “My mom did the best she could, but without services like religious charities or community projects or even just generous neighbors I don’t think we would have made it sometimes.”

When he became an adult, Franzio said he was determined to pay it forward any chance he got. “Gratitude was always emphasized in our home. My mom always said, ‘One day things will be different for you and you will have a chance to pay back people’s kindness.’ Well, when I went to college, I was able to see exactly what she meant.”

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Franzio began with school-based and fraternity projects. “I was always the one willing to chair a project or initiative,” he said.

“When other people were doing it for just a grade or service hours, I always felt different. I had a certain compassion because I knew only a few years prior the shoe was on the other foot.”

When he graduated, though, work/life balance made it difficult to maintain his commitment to service. “I felt really terrible about that. For the first time in my entire life, I had everything I needed financially. I was working hard, earning a good living, able to take care of my family back in New Orleans but still there was a void of some kind.”

A chance conversation with his mother about the void he was feeling opened his eyes. “She said, ‘B, I’m proud of all of your hard work. But don’t ever forget about others.’ I knew then she hit the nail on the head,” he said.

“My work schedule makes it difficult to volunteer for your typical projects so I developed my own little schedule or mini-projects.”

For the homeless, he keeps snack bags and rarely-worn shoes and clothing in his trunk. He also makes a weekly point to “pay it forward” in the drive-through by paying for the person behind him.

“I had to limit that one to weekly,” he said laughing. “Because of how often I do fast food—that one was really adding up too quickly!”

In the summer time, he keeps a cooler of iced water in his trunk for construction workers or pedestrians. And when grocery stores are collecting back to school supplies or Christmas toys, he prioritizes dropping something in the box each time.

“Is it the same as serving at the soup kitchen or building a house with Habitat? No, not exactly. But I believe I am making an impact by simply making the effort. Think about it. If everyone just tried to give back in even the smallest of ways how much better could our world be?”