Dayna James dedicates her life to service

Published 4:04 pm Wednesday, July 20, 2022

LAPLACE — Dayna James, born and raised in LaPlace, dedicates a large part of her life to serving the River Parishes. The birth of James’ small business led to her involvement in several clubs and organizations that prioritize the betterment of the community.

In 2010, James started her business, Home Away From Home Transportation, in an effort to provide transportation to school for students in need. James drove students all over the River Parishes, regardless of whether they were in public or private school.

“Most of those parents work outside of St. John, and some of the kids were in private school, and some of our private schools don’t have buses. So I started doing that,” James said.

The idea to start Home Away From Home came from James’ friend, a fellow church member and her hairstylist.

“Her salon used to be in St. John but she moved to Kenner, and her kids were going to school with my kids at Riverside,” James said. “She didn’t know how she was going to get them to school. She called me and she said, ‘Dayna, have you ever thought about driving school kids, because I need some help getting my kids to school.’”

James ended up providing transportation to 40 kids, and as the students began to trust her more and more, the job became close to her heart.

“It came to be more of a ministry to me than a job. I would drive so many kids and once the children got to trust me, they would talk to me,” James said. “They would share things with me. I was able to encourage them and make a few phone calls to parents that some of them were being bullied.”

With four children of her own, James wanted the children to know that she was someone they could go to for help whenever it was needed.

“Now that I’ve grown, I have a driver now, but it was hard for me to give that position up,” James said.

In 2017, James began her involvement with tourism in the River Parishes when she attended Economic Development & Tourism Week in St. John Parish.

“It really piqued my interest,” James said. “Tourism Week is where I met the owners and the administrators of the different attractions, which were the plantations and the swamp tours, and they were very happy to know they had local transportation in the area.”

James’ interest in tourism in the River Parishes quickly grew to involvement as she started providing transportation for tourists in the area.

“They were getting people coming from Orleans and other different parishes to come out and visit by Uber, but then Uber would leave the people there and wouldn’t pick them up. So they started calling me,” James said.

From there, James teamed up with two other women, Shaun Adams and Yolanda Fleming Williams, to expand the transportation business into United Front Transportation Services, LLC.

United Front Transportation Services, now solely run by James, provides not only school drop-off and pick-up, but several other transportation services.

“Tourism and other things that I’m doing, airport runs, cruise runs, I do private parties,” James said. “I actually started doing weddings with United Front in St. John and Ascension Parish.”

James is also on the board of directors for the River Region Chamber of Commerce, which started when she was told by an elder that if she wants to be taken seriously, she has to show up for everything.

“I showed up to everything St. John had. Every council meeting, every economic development meeting, every tourism meeting. I showed up,” James said. “And by me showing up and using my voice for small businesses, not knowing who was watching, I got a call from one of the chamber’s chairpeople at the time asking me to be a part of the committee.”

According to James, being involved with the River Region Chamber of Commerce showed her an entirely new perspective on business.

“I saw another level. It actually elevated my vision and my goals,” James said.

Most recently, James became involved with Kiwanis Club of Tri Parishes, a service group that focuses on children and education.

James was introduced to Kiwanis Club by another friend who was scheduled to have a meeting with club members who were in St. John Parish.

“She told me that when she saw the club, all she thought about was me,” James said.

James quickly fell in love with everything Kiwanis Club stood for and their passion for helping children in the community.

“You need other individuals with the same passion, the same vision that you have, and God has connected those types of people with Kiwanis,” James said.

From there, James was nominated the chapter president of Kiwanis Club of Tri Parishes.

“This was something else that I prayed for that finally has come to our area,” James said. “There was no doubt that I was going to sign up with this organization.”

According to James, she owes a great amount of her success to the help she has received, from her drivers at United Front Transportation to the members of the Chamber Of Commerce and Kiwanis Club.

“When you start growing, you need help,” James said. “You just have to know, look, you’re the president, but you can’t do this by yourself.”