The Emerge Center — formerly known as the Baton Rouge Speech & Hearing Foundation — honors 11 individuals for their volunteer efforts at its 43rd annual Volunteer Activists luncheon Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge. This year’s recipients include Lori Bertman, Judy Foil, Gwen and Todd Graves, Gwen Hamilton, Brian Haymon, Janice Pellar, Randy Roussel, Stephen Toups, Joe Traigle and Jacqui Vines.
The center will honor Angela and Craig Bergeron of Bergeron’s Cajun Meats with its Margaret M. Neely Award, the highest award bestowed for service to the clinic, for their support of the Angling Against Autism fundraiser.
The Emerge Center is a Capital Area United Way community partner agency offering audiology, group language preschool and a unique program for children with autism spectrum disorders. For tickets or sponsorship information, call (225) 663-6915 or go to emergela.org.
Lori Bertman is president and CEO of the Irene W. & C.B. Pennington Foundation, the largest family foundation in south Louisiana. Widely recognized as a noted expert and innovative leader in the field of disaster philanthropy, she is co-founder and board chairwoman of the Washington-based Center for Disaster Philanthropy. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bertman organized local and national philanthropic entities to raise over $40 million to contribute to recovery efforts.
In coordination with the Irene W. & C.B. Pennington Foundation, she began the CSIS-Pennington Family Foundation Series on Community Resilience with support from Walmart. The series brought together experts across all sectors to discuss community resilience, and culminated in the submission of a congressional white paper, which provided legislative and infrastructure recommendations to improve community resilience.
Judy Foil taught English for 25 years at LSU before going to work at the state Department of Education as an evaluator of charter school proposals and site visitor. As a volunteer, she joined the Baton Rouge Junior League, serving in many capacities and eventually being named Sustainer of the Year. Active in her church, St. James Episcopal, Foil has served on the vestry, the St. James Day School board and the St. James Place Foundation board, as well as participating in the church outreach program, school partnership program and the history program. Later she created the Golden Rule award-winning program, Be A Friend, encouraging the inclusion of children with disabilities in public schools.
Todd Graves is founder and CEO of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. Through the company’s Active Community Involvement program, Cane’s supports more than 3,000 organizations nationwide with a focus on education, feeding the hungry, active lifestyles and business development. A former restaurateur herself, Gwen Graves sold her McDonald’s franchise in 2005 to focus on her family and volunteer work. She is passionate about pet therapy, having visited hospitals, nursing homes and schools with the family’s yellow Labrador, Cane, providing therapeutic care for many years. The couple is especially supportive of the Baton Rouge community, volunteering and supporting many local organizations and initiatives, including the Emerge Center.
Gwen Hamilton serves as manager of community affairs for New Schools for Baton Rouge. Previously she was executive director of the Children’s Cabinet during the administration of Gov. Mike Foster, transforming policy changes across several departments providing services for children, youth and family. Her leadership at the Children’s Cabinet elevated her to the post of secretary of the Department of Social Services, where she managed a diversified portfolio of programs and initiatives and managed a $1.2 billion budget. Upon the conclusion of her governmental post, Hamilton transitioned to the private sector, assuming the role of senior director for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation where she was instrumental in the revitalization of Old South Baton Rouge and other key initiatives. She has also worked as senior vice president of Education Reform for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and assistant chief administrative officer in the Office of the Mayor Kip Holden.
Brian Haymon is CEO of SGS Petroleum Service Corp., which has 2,500 employees throughout the United States, Canada and Central America. His community service includes a number of positions with LSU. In 1999, he founded the Honors College Advisory Council, a group he has chaired since that time. He’s also served on the Forever LSU Cabinet, Chancellor’s Advisory Council, Honors College Dean’s Search Committee and 2013 Transition Advisory Team. Brian is also on the Chancellor’s Council of the LSU Law School and the executive committee of The Flagship Coalition. Haymon served on the founding committee of New Schools for Baton Rouge and continues to serve as a member of its board. He is a member of Capital Area United Way’s de Tocqueville Society and its executive committee. A member of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge board since 2011, he is now chairman.
Janice Pellar is chairwoman emeritus of EMCO Technologies, a Baton Rouge-based communications and IT company. A strong commitment to community service has been a significant part of her life both prior to and after her retirement. Her interests are Community Bible Church, where she has been a musician for 49 years; Baton Rouge General Hospital, where she is vice chairwoman of the board of trustees; and the Baton Rouge Symphony, where she also serves as vice chairwoman. Pellar has also served on the boards of the Better Business Bureau, Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, Capital Area United Way, Louisiana Business Group on Health and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Women’s Forum.
Randy Roussel is a partner in the Baton Rouge law firm of Phelps Dunbar and a member of many professional organizations. Some of them include the Baton Rouge, Louisiana and American Bar Associations, Louisiana Society of Certified Public Accountants, Louisiana Bankers Association, Baton Rouge Growth Coalition and Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. He serves on the board for the Center for Planning Excellence and is an adjunct professor at LSU’s Hebert Law Center. Roussel also teaches a continuing legal education course for Louisiana Realtors.
Stephen Toups is senior vice president and chief information officer of Turner Industries Group . He serves on the board of Capital Area United Way, where he is serving as chairman of its 2014 campaign; Theatre Baton Rouge; Louisiana State Trooper Foundation; Louisiana Workforce Education Initiative; and as chairman of Louisiana Community & Technical College System Foundation. He also is on the board of supervisors for the Louisiana Community & Technical College System, Federal Reserve Board’s Energy Council and advisory board for Regions Bank. Toups previously chaired the Community Fund for the Arts, Heart Association Heart Walk, Louisiana Chapter American Cancer Society Brotherhood/Sisterhood Awards Gala and the Louisiana Construction Education Foundation.
Joe Traigle is president and CEO of the business management consulting firm Sheffield Consulting. He has served as president of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, chairman of the Capital Area United Way and on the board of Louisiana Art & Science Museum. For seven years, Tr aigle was on the National Public Television board of trustees. During the early ’90s, he co-founded the Baton Rouge-based equality organization, Capital City Alliance, which still exists today, as well as Equality Louisiana for the purpose of evaluating gubernatorial candidates and other statewide candidates. In 2008, Traigle was a leader in the movement to get the One Baton Rouge resolution passed. Traigle has continued to be a vocal supporter of LGBT issues, including this year’s attempt to pass the “BeFair” ordinance.
Jacqui Vines is senior vice president and regional manager of Cox’s Southeast Region. Under her stewardship, Cox has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to Louisiana and its communities, especially in the areas of diversity, economic development and education, cornerstones of Vines’ corporate and personal giving initiatives. Vines is a member of the Committee of 100, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Women in Cable & Telecommunications and the National Association of Minorities in Cable. She is former president of the La Capitale Chapter of The Links and serves on the board of the Louisiana Cable Telecommunications Association. Recently, she was appointed by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to The Water Institute of the Gulf, a nonprofit independent research institute dedicated to advancing the understanding of coastal and deltaic systems and applying this knowledge for the benefit of society.