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Volunteer of the ages

It’s easy to get immersed in the stories Audry Breaux, known affectionately as “Nanny” to many, shares about her experiences as a volunteer at Neighborhood House.  Partly, it’s because they span more than half a century.  She’s volunteered here since the mid-1960s, she guesses.  But it’s also because they are almost always punctuated with an engaging grin.

Breaux, a former army nurse, has seen many faces walk through our doors over the past five decades, and says it’s those many faces that are what she enjoys the most about being a volunteer, where she provides support at the Epstein office reception.

“Just to see the kinds of people who come in to Neighborhood House,” says Breaux.  “You can see the looks on their faces and when we assign case managers to them and they’re so appreciative—they just have such smiles on their faces,” she says, flashing her characteristic wide grin.

But when she’s not helping answer client calls and visitors at the Epstein office, Breaux keeps a busy schedule. 

Originally from Cajun country, New Orleans, the octogenarian loves cooking her native Louisiana Creole dishes, like deep fried catfish, cornbread, collard greens and Po’boy sandwiches.   They combine quite nicely with all of the sporting activities and events she has watched and attended since moving to Seattle in 1957.

During the 70s and 80s, she was a season ticketholder for the Seattle SuperSonics, and still admires the team members who helped the team capture the 1979 NBA Championship title.  She easily recalls the starting players and provides highlights from that award-winning season.

Audry volunteering at a 2006 holiday party in Yesler Terrace

As the Sonics lost their edge, Breaux says she became a regular fan of the Mariners through the 1980s, naming Ruppert Jones, and Ichiro, former Mariner outfielders, as her favorite players.

“But lately, I’m really just getting into football after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl,” she adds.

And when she’s not cheering on the Seahawks, she can often be found dancing the jitterbug, waltzing, or swing dancing at a club in Seattle’s south end.

Whether it has been tending to a customer’s laundry (she has worked for a dry cleaners), tending to their drinks (she’s a certified mixologist), or tending to a sick patient, Breaux’s easy, optimistic manner has helped reassure many people in need over the years.

“I think one of our strengths is that we reach out to help and get to know so many different people, and we turn nobody away,” she adds. 

A trait Breaux most definitely shares with Neighborhood House.