2020 Thomy Lafon
Who is Thomy Lafon?
Born a free man of color in 1810 in New Orleans, Thomy Lafon amassed great wealth in real estate and became one of America’s first African American philanthropists, donating to numerous charitable causes. At Lafon’s request, in 1866, an asylum for children orphaned after the Civil War was erected on the lot that now houses OHL’s 1125 N. Tonti facility. The orphanage was run by the Sisters of the Holy Family, one of the first African American orders of nuns. In 1892, still under the care of the Sisters of the Holy Family, the structure shifted missions and became the “Lafon Catholic Old Folk Home,” a nursing home for elderly women of color. After Lafon’s death in 1893, the Sisters had the finances to expand the facility and, funded by Lafon’s bequests, the Sisters built a large, square, three-story brick structure attached to the original structure. Completed in 1895, the new facility allowed services to be offered to elderly men and women. The Sisters operated the Lafon Home out of the Tonti location until 1973 when they moved to a new facility and donated the premise for the formation of Odyssey House Louisiana (OHL). As OHL has continued the building’s storied social service history, the Tonti location has been of continuous aid to Louisiana for over 150 years! OHL awards the Thomy Lafon award annually at Pirate Ball to honor the legacy of social service that Mr. Lafon made possible and to recognize individuals who continue that legacy in the present day.