I often reflect on the generosity of Baton Rouge and its residents. Over the past few weeks, several events have brought that generosity to the forefront in this place we proudly call home.

Philanthropy awards

What better way to celebrate National Philanthropy Day than to recognize some of our local philanthropists? That’s what the Greater Baton Rouge Chapter, Association of Fundraising Professionals did Nov. 20 at the Renaissance Hotel. Joining in on the celebration was the Planned Giving Council of Greater Baton Rouge.

Welcoming the crowd of some 400 was AFP president Molly Sanchez. WBRZ’s S ylvia Weatherspoon served as emcee.

This year’s honorees included: Price LeBlanc Automotive Family, Outstanding Leadership in Corporate Philanthropy, honored by the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge; Dr. Thomas Flynn, Outstanding Philanthropist, honored by Our Lady of the Lake College; Credit Bureau of Baton Rouge Foundation, Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation, honored by Public Affairs Research Council; Damian Calato, Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser, honored by Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area; the Cinderella Project, Outstanding Service Organization, honored by the LSU Foundation; Debbie Kidder Little, Outstanding Professional Fundraiser, honored by Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area; and, Capital Area United Way, Board of Directors Award.

Honored with the Leave a Legacy award by the Planned Giving Council for making planned gifts supporting local nonprofits were Kathy and Frank McArthur, honored by Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area; Ed Steimel, honored by the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge; and the late Sybil Frances Boizell, honored by the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. These awards were presented by council President Charlene Montelaro.

The luncheon was chaired by Harriett Pooler. Assisting were committee members Tammy Abshire, Sabrina Beach, Leslie Dozier, Stacey Howell, Judith Roberson, Lisa O’Beirne Ryan, Montelaro and Sanchez.

Top Hat Soirée

Baton Rouge Gallery was the hot spot in town Friday night as the Lauren Savoy Olinde Foundation hosted its annual Top Hat Soirée. Jugglers on stilts welcomed guests to “An Evening at the Circus” to benefit skin cancer awareness. Inside the circus theme continued, the aroma of popcorn and balloons everywhere.

Popcorn was provided by Popology. Other yummies and libations were provided by Amazing Cakes, Baton Rouge Beverage Co., Bonanno’s Catering, Bistro Byronz, Juban’s Restaurant, Kenny Joffrion, Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar & Restaurant, Mary Miller, Raising Cane’s, Ronnie’s Boudin & Cracklin’, Ruthie Golden, Unique Cuisine Catering and Walk-On’s Catering.

Providing wines for the ring toss were Calandro’s Supermarket, Calvin’s Grocery, Hi Nabor Supermarket, Martin’s Wine Cellar, Matherne’s Supermarket, Paul Bologna Fine Wines, Republic National Distribution and members of the soirée committee.

Chaired by Sarah Lomax Gray, the committee included Lauren Bailey, Ashley Cain, Lindsey Carlino, Margaret Corley, Noelle Dazzio, Beth Dunn, Darley Denton, Paul Gray, Emily Gonsoulin, Lauren Luke, Ben McGuire, Claire Miceli, Michelle Neustrom, Olivia Olinde, Claire and Jeff Pupera, Nancy and Mike Savoy, Mandy and Al Scallan, Lyn Taylor, Suzanne Tessier and Golden.

Quota gathering

Joining the members of Quota Club for their annual Thanksgiving dinner has now become one of my official holiday traditions. This year’s gathering at the home of Jean Gatz on Nov. 18 was extra special, with Quota International President Karen Murphy from Australia and Quota International Executive Director Barbara Schreiber from Washington, D.C., joining the ladies. Karen was sitting at my table and by the time dinner was done I had a new friend.

I also enjoyed visiting with Bobbie Carey, Kathy Andrus, Lynn Bradley, Pam Fisher, Camilla Ford, Helen Graf, Rosemary Hannie, Gerri Hobdy, Sharon Weston Broome and the hostess.

Thanksgiving service

Another of my holiday traditions is the annual Thanksgiving Service celebrating life and sight hosted by the Baton Rouge Regional Eye Bank and Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA). I was glad that my schedule allowed me to attend the Nov. 18 service at the Rosary Chapel at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

Tracey McDowell shared the story of husband Beau, who saved the lives of eight others through the donation of his organs following his untimely death. Double cornea transplant recipient Jim Jackson talked about how he still prays daily for the family whose unselfishness gave him the gift of sight.

They were among the 40-plus donor family members or recipients who participated in the touching candle-lighting ceremony. It was during this part of the afternoon that I spotted friend Wendy Lipsey, who last year received a kidney and liver. I moved over to join her, holding hands for the remainder of the program and saying a silent prayer for the families who saved my friend’s life. The program concluded with “Amazing Grace,” led by vocalist Debbie Nault and accompanist Julie Cherry.

Dancing for Big Buddy

Well, it’s official, I’m dusting off my dancing shoes for the 10th anniversary of Dancing for Big Buddy! I’ll be tripping the light fantastic with LeBrian Patrick, aka Mr. Chocolishous, as one of the alumni dancers participating in the April 23 extravaganza. Also returning are alums Sandra Holub, dancing with Leonard Augustus; Melvin Hardnett, dancing with Jerisse Grantham; and Wayne Talbot, dancing with Renée Chatalain.

We got the news and got to meet the new Celebrity Dancers at the announcement luncheon Nov. 17 at the PMAC’s Legends Lounge. The lineup includes Lillette Delahaye, dancing with Aaron Lafite; Dr. Jennifer Greeson, dancing with Donté Phillips; Josh Howard, dancing with Ryn Jones; Natalie LaBorde, dancing with LeBrian; Wendy Lipsey, dancing with Leonard; Dixon McMakin, dancing with Claire Broyles; Jordan Piazza, dancing with Courtney Black; Kathy Victorian, dancing with River Peterson; Ju stin Vincent, dancing with Ariana Virgillio; and Corey Webster, dancing with Kris Cangelosi.

If the initial meet-and-greet is any indication, this is going to be one amazing performance. Producer Lin Holdridge was grinning ear-to-ear by the time things wrapped up, as were Co-chairwomen Erica Mercer and Terri LeBlanc, and Executive Director Gay Mack.

So, circle the date — April 23 — on your calendar. I expect to see all Party Line readers in the audience cheering me on!

MBP honors

The week started off at a lovely reception hosted by the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s board of directors honoring this year’s recipients of three of its most prestigious awards. The new Adamek Overlook on the center’s second floor was packed with board members, donors, supporters and friends and family of the honorees.

The Hillar C. Moore Jr. Memorial Outstanding Leadership Award was presented to Jim McIlwain, who has served as a board member, philanthropist and volunteer with MBP since 2004. It was under his chairmanship that the center’s joint development committee developed and implemented the largest fundraising campaign in Mary Bird’s history — $25 million. Presenting the award, which recognizes a volunteer who makes a “significant and unique contribution” to MBP’s philanthropic initiatives, was Hillar Moore III.

The Louis D. Curet Volunteer Fundraising Award was presented posthumously to Thomas J. “TJ” Moran, a founding member of the center’s annual golf classic, leader of its Brick by Brick capital campaign and who, in 2010, made a $1 million endowment to the center’s foundation. Burke Moran accepted the award from Curet on behalf of his late father.

The night’s final award was the D. Jensen Holliday Memorial Community Service Award, presented to Kim and Trey Bowman by Estelle Holliday. The Bowmans created the Bella Bowman foundation after their 8-year-old daughter died of brain stem necrosis, a rare side effect from radiation she received for brain cancer. The foundation helps families of children suffering from brain cancer and furthers research and education of radiation necrosis.


From Essen Lane, I headed out to Brightside Lane to the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired where the LSU Gamma Zeta Chapter of Delta Gamma sorority was hosting an ice cream social for the students. While the sorority members do this on a regular basis, what made this night so special was that LSVI Director Bobby Simpson was presenting the chapter with a very special plaque to hang in its chapter room.

Last month, the national Delta Gamma sorority received the Council of Schools & Services for the Blind’s prestigious Champion Award at its national institute in Louisville, Kentucky. Bobby nominated the sorority based on the work done by the LSU chapter at LSVI. So, now the Gamma Zeta Chapter gets to proudly display the award. Congrats, girls!

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