Louisiana is no stranger to the beads, balls and parades surrounding the Mardi Gras season each year. However, what many may not know is each of the 17 local Mardi Gras krewes are nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations. While the krewes see their role as providing fun and entertainment for the community each year, they also recognize a responsibility to give back and support the community in a variety of charitable ways.

“As the Mardi Gras community, we are here to take on whatever the need is in the community at large,” said Brett Burdges, the Captain of Captains over all the local Mardi Gras krewes. “If there’s any type of need in our community we want to know about it and get involved.”

From national charities and organizations such as Susan G. Komen, Toys for Tots and the American Cancer Society to local efforts like the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission and Providence House, each krewe reaches far and wide to take on different service opportunities.

While the dazzling Mardi Gras balls and parades only last a couple months out of the year, the Mardi Gras krewes are active within the community year round.

“Our season starts on Fat Tuesday and runs until the following Fat Tuesday. We’re doing fundraisers and participating in community events the entire time,” Burdges said. “These krewes are made up of people who work and live in this community and are passionate about giving back. We’re here to serve.”

The Krewe of Akewa

The Krewe of Akewa is an all-women krewe based out of Minden, LA. Each year, the krewe takes up a collection for the Gingerbread House Bossier/Caddo Children’s Advocacy Center to aid in their efforts to advocate for abused children. The krewe also sponsors hospice care in Shreveport as they strive to ensure patients with the best end-of- life care possible.

In addition to their philanthropic efforts with the Gingerbread House and hospice, the ladies of the Krewe of Akewa also sponsor a family in need each year at Christmas.

“There is no better feeling than doing something good for others,” said Tina Ashley, Co-Captain of the Krewe of Akewa.

The Krewe des Ambassadeurs

The Krewe of Ambassadeurs, based in Minden, LA, partners with CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates — to buy and wrap Christmas gifts for kids in the CASA organization. Members of the krewe buy gifts for CASA kids and the krewe gathers together once a year for one, giant wrapping effort. Throughout the year the krewe participates in various fundraisers that support the organization.

The Krewe of Artemis-Springhill

The Krewe of Artemis-Springhill has a membership of over 180 people who serve as Goodwill Ambassadors throughout the northern part of Louisiana. From Springhill to Ruston to Shreveport and Shongaloo, the members of the Krewe of Artemis-Springhill are passionate about community service. In their efforts to serve the community, the krewe also awarded two $500 scholarships this year to students at North Webster High School. The awards were given to graduating seniors based on the seniors’ own community service efforts.

The Krewe of Atlas

In 2017, the Krewe of Atlas’s main community service efforts have revolved around the Out of Darkness Walks, an organization that strives toward suicide prevention. The Krewe of Atlas raised over $15,000 this year for the walk and helped establish a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline as well as get suicide prevention information into the hands of local high school students.

In addition to their participation in the Out of Darkness walk, the krewe also participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and placed third overall in donations. The Krewe is also involved in community service efforts at the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission.

“Our Krewe stays active with all the balls and coronations, but we are also active in reaching out and helping our community wherever we see a need,” said Dana Favrot, Krewe of Atlas Lieutenant of Charity.

The Krewe of Barkus & Meoux

The Krewe of Barkus & Meoux is a Shreveport-based krewe with the mission to develop, foster and promote programs to benefit abused, neglected and homeless animals, as well as promote responsible pet ownership with public education for a voluntary spay/neuter program. In stride with their mission, the Krewe supports the Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) Program which traps feral cats, has them spayed or neutered and returns them. In addition to their partnership with the TNR Program, the Krewe of Barkus & Meoux also gives grants each year to various animal rescues to help with the medical expenses of foster animals. The Krewe also provides $2,000 annually to the Barksdale AFB Veterinary Clinic for medical services for retired military working dogs.

The Krewe of Barkus & Meoux’s Annual Pet Parade serves as the main fundraiser for the Krewe’s various, animal-related community service projects throughout the year.

The Krewe of Centaur

The Krewe of Centaur partners with two large service organizations each year: the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Toys for Tots. In 2017, the Krewe filled an entire U-Haul of toys for Toys for Tots and raised an additional $13,000 for the foundation. They host fundraisers, including a cake auction, throughout the year to support these causes.

In addition to their main efforts with Susan G. Komen and Toys for Tots, the Krewe also supports various local community organizations and recently visited a local veterans home to spread some holiday cheer among the patrons.

The Krewe of Demeter

The Krewe of Demeter is based in Mansfield, LA and is active in supporting the DeSoto Parish Animal Shelter. This shelter is consistently at maximum capacity and therefore tries to set aside any surplus funds to expand the animal shelter to accommodate additional lost and abandoned pets. The Krewe of Demeter recognizes this need in the community and strives to provide additional resources to aid the shelter’s expansion and pet-care efforts. The Krewe collects dog food, cat food, treats and toys for the lost pets as well as volunteers their time at the shelter.

The Krewe of Dionysos

The Krewe of Dionysos, in Natchitoches, LA, supports multiple community service efforts including the Natchitoches Lion’s Club, the Natchitoches Kiwanis Club, Natchitoches Hope for Paws, the Wesley food pantry on the NSU campus as well as the Rotary Club. The Krewe also donates two ball tickets each year to the American Cancer Society.

In addition to these organizations, the Krewe of Dionysos Royalty, as well as other members, visit various nursing homes, elementary schools and daycare centers to hold small parades throughout the year.

The Krewe of Elders

The Krewe of Elders, based in Shreveport, provides volunteers for various local community service organizations throughout the year. Their members spend time volunteering with the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Holy Angels, and the American Legion. During Mardi Gras season the Krewe visits the War Veterans Home, the VA Hospital, various local schools, nursing homes and adult living facilities.

The Krewe of Excellence

The Krewe of Excellence is a Natchitoches-based krewe that participates in volunteer efforts with Relay for Life, the Natchitoches Head Start Center and the Natchitoches Library. The Krewe also sponsors the Boys and Girls Club, participates in the annual Natchitoches Sheriff ’s Office toy drive and hosts a coat drive at a different local elementary school each year as well as a fan drive for the Council of Aging. In addition to their partnerships with these various community service organizations, the Krewe also awards two scholarships each year to Natchitoches high school seniors.

The Krewe of Gemini

The members of the Krewe of Gemini prides themselves not only on their monarch and parade to lead the Shreveport-Bossier Mardi Gras celebration but also on their tradition of service to the community in response to the needs of the city. The Krewe supports the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana, as well as Toys for Tots, in addition to the school supply drive in which they donated over $3,000 worth of supplies to Plantation Park Elementary School.

Krewe of Harambee

The Krewe of Harambee is an African-American krewe based in Shreveport. They partner annually with the local Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation as well as award several $1,000 scholarships to local high school seniors. In 2017, the Krewe went above and beyond in their efforts to serve the local homeless community by collecting items such as: travel size wipes, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, tissues and more. After collecting the supplies, they came together to pass out gift bags to those in need throughout downtown Shreveport.

The Krewe of Highland

The Shreveport-based Krewe of Highland supports food pantries every year at Thanksgiving. They also sponsor C.E. Byrd Athletics and partner with Shreveport Parks and Recreation (SPAR). In 2017, the Krewe donated $4,500 to SPAR for electrical upgrades for Shreveport Fire Station #7, electrical upgrades to the main pavilion and security lighting in Columbia Park as well as a free-for-public-use bicycle repair station in Columbia Park.

The Krewe of Justinian

Through its charitable organization the Shreveport Bar Foundation, the Krewe of Justinian contributes to several charities and legal community outreach programs each year including Wills for Veterans, Lawyers Assisting Victims of Domestic Violence, Ask-A-Lawyer Night, the Gingerbread House, Volunteers for Youth Justice, the Shreveport Pro Bono project and Providence House.

“The Krewe of Justinian is the only legal krewe in the country and one of its goals is to raise money for not-for-profit activities of the Bar each year,” said Larry Pettiette, Captain and Past-President of the Shreveport Bar Association.

Krewe de Les Femmes Mystique

Throughout the year, Krewe de Les Femme Mystique donates time, energy, money, and durable goods to service projects benefiting women and children in the community. Some of the non-profit groups they partner with are the Shreveport/Bossier Rescue Mission, March of Dimes, American Heart Association, Providence House, American Cancer Society, Toys for Tots, the Caddo and Bossier Councils on Aging and the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana.

The Krewe of Nemesis

The Krewe of Nemesis, based in Chalmette, LA, is all about putting ‘family’ first. Meaning: (F)ocusing (A)t (M)aking (I)mprovements (L)ocally (Y)ear-round. They put out flags for veterans, set up accounts to start scholarships at local schools, and look for any and every opportunity to serve local families.

“Where Nemesis sees a need, we always step up and help,” said Caye Bryce, Philanthropy Chair for the Krewe of Nemesis.

The Krewe of Sobek

The Krewe of Sobek, based in Shreveport, is always on the lookout for ways to serve the community. In 2017, they donated band uniforms to Huntington High School and Green Oaks High School, provided school supplies for the Boys and Girls Club, and volunteered in the Race for the Cure in addition to their annual bicycle giveaway to the Boys and Girls Club.