For more than 40 years and through a plethora of civic organizations, Donna Saurage has contributed her time, treasure and talent to Baton Rouge — an accomplishment that earned her the 74th Golden Deeds award.
Saurage accepted the honor Tuesday evening at a banquet at L’Auberge Casino and Hotel among friends, family and past recipients.
“We look at all the volunteers in our community and around the world, and she’s a shining beam of light,” said Cliff Vannoy, president and CEO of LSU Alumni Association and guest speaker. “Having someone like Donna be recognized tonight is tremendous for the community of Baton Rouge.”
Saurage has worked with almost 50 groups, spending 14 years on the Public Affairs Research Council, 12 years with the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation, nine years on the board of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and 15 years on the board of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, among others.
Saurage, 76, said the excitement following the news of the award has been overwhelming.
“It’s been quite a whirlwind,” she said. “I’m not used to this kind of public attention. What I do is usually behind the scenes.”
Saurage’s daughter Jennifer Moreland, who lives in Florence, Texas, said someone recently asked her why she was involved in so much volunteer work, from parent-teacher association to Florence Public Library, in addition to running a ranching and cattle business. She said she knew exactly why.
“It’s because of my mom,” Moreland said. “I get that from her.”
Daughter Susan Saurage-Altenloh, a strategic insights and research consultant in Houston, said her mother inspires her not only with her kindness but with the intelligence she brings to the table.
“She is one of the brightest, most competent people I’ve ever met,” Saurage-Altenloh said. “I aspire to be like her because she gives selflessly yet she’s really, really smart.”
Saurage has been involved in youth and education issues: in Volunteers in Public Schools for more than 27 years, Baton Rouge Youth Coalition for 15 years, and six years each with Teach for America, on an advisory board for Youth Oasis and on the board of Young Leaders’ Academy.
Saurage said she wished she could share this celebration with her husband, Norman Saurage, who died in 2014 at age 77.
They were married for 57 years, and had five children, 14 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
When she heard she would receive the award, she said, “I really felt shock and then this feeling of unworthiness almost and then this sadness, almost to the point of tears, because my husband wasn’t here to share this with me because he passed away a few months ago.”
She has volunteered more than 22 years’ service with United Way, 17 years with the National Council for Community and Justice and more than 12 years with the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum.
The Golden Deeds award is voted on by the Inter-Civic Council of Baton Rouge, which is made up of members of various civic organizations in the city, including American Red Cross, Cortana Kiwanis Club and East Baton Rouge Lions Club.
The council votes on nominees, and The Advocate supports the award by running advertisements, and printing tickets and programs.
Saurage-Altenloh said her mother remains involved in the community.
“My mom’s the busiest person I know, but it’s not busy work,” she said.
Edward Steimel, 93 and the oldest living recipient of the award, was also in attendance. He accepted the honor in 1956. Steimel was the founding executive director of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.