NEW ROADS — The past 10 months could have been an even bigger struggle for Margaret Griffin, a 30-year employee with the Pointe Coupee Parish School District who was forced to take a leave of absence after her husband had a stroke.
But she ended up with unexpected help as she nursed her husband back to health in the couple's New Roads home.
That assistance came from three young men she previously only knew casually.
Since Griffin's husband, Eugene, returned home from the hospital in April, the trio of Livonia High students have made it their duty to stop by the Griffins' house after school and basketball practice to do chores.
One of those young men, Billy "BJ" Butler, has helped motivate Eugene Griffin to do the exercises his wife said are slowly returning life to her husband's limbs.
"When BJ comes over, he knows it's time to exercise," Griffin says. "BJ is the boss. And he does whatever BJ tells him. Eugene has just gotten so comfortable with him."
And so has Margaret Griffin and the rest of the family.
Butler, a 17-year-old senior at Livonia High, was the first to lend a helping hand. Margaret Griffin said she called him inside one afternoon in April as he was walking down the street in front of her home.
She needed help lifting her husband in his wheelchair. When Butler walked in and saw how weak Eugene Griffin was, he told Margaret he would start helping her out whenever he could. She said he's been showing up nearly every day since.
After a few visits, Butler got his cousins Derrick Albert and Danny Albert III, who also attend Livonia High with Butler, to tag along and pitch in, too.
The three boys live together in a house down the street from the Griffins.
"These are good people, and I just wanted to help out because I know she can't do everything for herself," Butler said when asked why he spend his free time helping the couple.
Butler leans on past experience helping an aunt who was in a similar condition. He also taps his basketball training and workouts to devise the exercise routines he does with Eugene Griffin.
Cousins Derrick Albert, 18, and Danny Albert, a junior at Livonia High, let Butler handle the exercise while they mostly do a lot of the heavy-lifting chores around the Griffins' home, like yard work and re-organizing the backyard shed.
Margaret Griffin said she wishes she could pay them. But, if she did, she doubts the boys would take her money.
"We really aren't looking for anything in return," 17-year-old Danny Albert said. "We're just showing respect. Doing it from the heart."
"Whatever they need, we're here for her," Derrick Albert said.
Danny Albert shrugged his shoulders and said, "Doing this keeps us out of trouble."
None of them plan a career in physical therapy or nursing. Derrick Albert said he plans to enter the U.S. Army after he graduates. Butler and Danny Albert have similar ambitions.
The boys take their caretaker roles so seriously that when a recent setback forced Eugene Griffin back in the hospital, Butler and Derrick Albert were there to load him in Margaret's car and they both stayed overnight at the hospital with her until her husband was discharged.
At a recent School Board meeting, Superintendent Kevin Lemoine gave special recognition to the boys for their extraordinary character.
Margaret Griffin said the trio has become part of her family, and the boys said their visits to the couple won't stop when Eugene Griffin is back on his feet.
"I'm so grateful to them," she said. "Everyone I tell the story to says you just don't find young men like this these days. They've really been a light in my life."