I hope you and yours had a blessed Thanksgiving. Before the holidays officially got underway, our social calendar was already full. So here we go.
City Club's 60th
A red carpet, complete with paparazzi, welcomed guests to the City Club's 60th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 16, which also celebrated the club's just-completed stunning renovation. Greeting guests were gala chairwoman BeBe Facundus and her co-chairwoman, Barbara Anne Eaton. I walked in with Edy Koonce, who told me about the "good-looking rocker" with the band playing in the downstairs Grill Room. Turns out it was her handsome husband Jeff and his band. Upstairs was the jazzy sounds of the Vasil combo.
Champagne and other libations flowed. Some of the best hors d’oeuvres I've had in a while filled tables adorned with breathtaking all-white floral arrangements by Rickey Heroman's Florist. A Roman numeral LX ice sculpture centered the main table.
From its founding as a men's club, the City Club has quite literally come a long way, baby. Members today are a cross section of the community, and some 300 of them turned out for the celebration. I enjoyed visiting with Emily and John Wilbert, Kathleen and Vic Howell, Carol Anne Blitzer, Mary McCowan, Brandon Parlange, Jeff Angers, Edmund Giering, Debbie and Rickey Heroman, Mitzi Miller, Zeke Wimert, Mary and John Boston, Susan and Richard Lipsey, Brinkley Maginnis, Marilyn Carriere, Peggy Cangelosi and manager Pierre Legrand.
Artemis King's party
So what's it like when one of the city's most in-demand caterers throws a party? I found out the following night when Don Bergeron, who's reigning as King Artemis XVII this Mardi Gras season, hosted his King's Party at Bergeron's City Market. The restaurant was transformed into a party venue for the celebration, which needless to say, had scrumptious eats and drinks. I've heard about cheese curds on Food Network but I've never eaten them; they are now my new favorite munchie.
Joining in the celebration were Artemis Queen Stephanie Possa and former royalty Cheryl Bourg, Cheryl Callerame, Debbie and Jeff Kleinpeter, Joe Possa, Karen Profita and Melanie and André Uzee. As with any good south Louisiana party, we all ended up on the dance floor thanks to the irresistible tunes of Louisiana.
The week started off celebrating philanthropy at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Baton Rouge Chapter's annual National Philanthropy Day Luncheon at the Renaissance Hotel. For only the second time in the organization's history, it presented its Spirit of Giving Award, and this time it went to Donna Saurage, eliciting a heartfelt standing ovation.
"This is especially important to me because of the prior recipient," said Donna. "John (Barton Sr.) taught Norman and me about the importance of philanthropy ... he was my mentor."
Before recognizing the day's other honorees, emcee Sylvia Weatherspoon asked former honorees to stand and be recognized. Those honored this year, who will be joining that prestigious group, are Marti and John Engquist, honored by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, Outstanding Philanthropist; Chelsey Laborde Blankenship, honored by Boys & Girls Club of Greater Baton Rouge, Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser; Rory McCracken, honored by Visit Baton Rouge, Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy; Beth Veazey, honored by Baton Rouge General Foundation, Outstanding Professional Fundraiser; DEMCO, Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation; Merrill Lynch, honored by Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Outstanding Leadership in Corporate Philanthropy; and Capital Area United Way, Outstanding Philanthropic Service Organization.
Sarah Cortell Vandersypen chaired the luncheon and chapter President Michael Acaldo thanked everyone in attendance for their philanthropic efforts.
The recognition of those who do so much to make our community great continued with the presentation of the Golden Deeds Award to Cordell Haymon later that evening at a banquet at the newly renovated Marriott Hotel. The award is given annually by The Advocate and Inter-Civic Council.
Before the formal portion of the evening, there was a VIP reception where council members, former award recipients and Advocate executives got to mix and mingle. Since I couldn't stay for the dinner, I got in quick visits with members of the Haymon family, Donna Saurage, Kathleen and Vic Howell, Susan and Marvin Borgmeyer, Barrie and Lee Griffin, Susan and Richard Lipsey and Marsha and Bobby Yarborough.
From the Marriott, I headed out to Chef John Folse's White Oak Plantation, which was twinkling with little white lights strung throughout the property, for the Sunshine Foundation's Sunshine for Kids Gala. This year the group honored local pediatric surgeon Faith Hansbrough.
"I'm impressed so much with this organization," said Hansbrough in accepting the award from founder Shirley Porter. "It supports children's self-esteem and the goodness in their own hearts ... It's a really big honor for me."
Guests also heard from Ascension Parish Sheriff's Lt. Coy Daigle, who is one of hundreds of deputies in cooperation with the Louisiana Sheriff's Association who distribute Porter's book "You Are Sunshine" to kindergartners as well as read it to them. To date, 750,000 books have been given away. Silent and live auctions, as well as the "Suntini Raffle" of a John Hardy necklace donated by Diane and Johnny Tate, raised money to make sure this distribution can continue.
Woman's thank you
The following night was a lovely thank-you party for supporters of Woman's Hospital held at Ann Connelly's new gallery at Lobdell and Jefferson. A congenial group admired the art on exhibit as they noshed on yummy hors d’oeuvres (my favorite was the bacon-wrapped stuffed dates!), sipped wine and got in some preholiday visiting. A huge thank-you was delivered by CEO Teri Fontenot and echoed by the Foundation for Woman's Executive Director Shon Baker.
In the middle of all the partying, I had the opportunity to slow down and contemplate the Thanksgiving season at two events that, over the years, have become part of my holiday tradition — the Sharing Shores Thanksgiving Luncheon Nov. 15 and the Thanksgiving Service hosted by the Baton Rouge Regional Eye Bank and the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency the following day.
Members of Sharing Shores gathered for their annual luncheon at Bay Leaf Indian Restaurant. Not only have I learned a lot about Indian culture but I've made new friends — in particular founders Chandan Sharma and Pinki Diwan, who opened the gathering by reading a Hindu prayer in Sanskrit and then in English. Christina Smith, a nutritional health consultant, spoke to the group.
The organization was founded more than 15 years ago to preserve the members' Indian heritage and to give back to the community. Members did this by sharing their favorite family recipes in a cookbook, "Sharing Shores," which was proclaimed the No. 1 community cookbook by the Tabasco Co. Its sales and other fundraising efforts have allowed this dynamic group to give $120,000 to the local battered women's shelter and other programs serving women and children in need. They have also established a scholarship within the LSU School of Social Work. Talk about paying it forward.
Songs of Thanksgiving, prayers and a candle-lighting ceremony are the hallmarks of the Thanksgiving Service at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center's Rosary Chapel. This year, Jada Kerek-Mayon shared the story of making the decision to donate her daughter's organs, and the peace it brought her and her family. She was followed by cornea recipient Robert Schmidt, who told how the blessing of being able to see thanks to someone's unselfish act has impacted his life. They led off the candle-lighting ceremony where loved ones remembered those who became donors or whose donation saved their lives or gave them sight.
The event wrapped up with a reception hosted by the Eye Bank's Visionaries, chaired by Claudia McCall. Assisting were Marlene Colter, Elaine Ellis, Vivian Fry, Yvonne Kelleher, Dusty Manson and Margaret Rome.