Sharp as a tack, still giving back: Yazoo woman volunteers at age - - Jackson, MS

Sharp as a tack, still giving back: Yazoo woman volunteers at age 98

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By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - With quick fingers and focus, Leola Dillard knits slippers to give away as gifts. She lives alone, cooks her own breakfast, takes her own bath, and travels; in her hallway you'll find a picture of Leola posing in Washington D.C. with hip hop artist Usher.

It's a robust schedule for a woman who's older than World War 1.

"I'm 98 years old. I was born in 1912," she says. "I feel good. Awfully good. I don't have no health problems. My legs only put me down."

Staying physically active may be a key to longevity. But Leola will tell you to also stay civically active.

After teaching for 27 years in Yazoo County, she began mentoring children. "Just because I see a need," she says. "I carried 36 children all around the state, to live in hotels, different things they will never do again. Every year we carried somebody somewhere."

Every year, Leola holds a free flea market in her yard that draws huge crowds. In 2008 it was recognized as the top project in the nation by U.S.A. Today Magazine. Leola received $10,000, all of which she gave to charity.

Back in the 1960's, a young child playing in the street in Yazoo City was killed. At that time Leola urged the mayor to build a playground so children could play safely. Eventually, her dream of a playground became reality.  But it wasn't until 2003 that the playground, on Ethel Street in Yazoo City, was renamed the "Leola Dillard Playground."

Few people who reach the age of 98 remain as sharp and healthy as Leola, a good and faithful servant with a simple message for all of us. "Go out and say good morning to somebody, send them out a $2 fruit basket. Any little thing you can do to make people feel good," she says. "Let 'em know you love 'em. God love 'em too."

Leola is the recipient of the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award with the Governor's Initiative for Volunteer Excellence (GIVE) program. She will receive the award during a luncheon at the Mississippi Museum of Art on Monday.

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