The 2014 Southeast Louisiana Council Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen Award dubbed Robert W. “Bob” Merrick as the most recent laureate; Cocktails for KID smART celebrated the organization’s 15th year; and the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice hailed a half dozen Orleanians with the annual Weiss Humanitarian Awards. Huzzahs all!

Boy Scouts of America

The National World War II Museum’s Freedom Pavilion was the site of the 6 p.m. reception that launched the evening for the Southeast Louisiana Council Boys Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen Award. After the first hour of general togetherness, guests sat for the 7 p.m. dinner and program.

Whitney Bank President Joseph S. “Joe” Exnicios, as event chairman, headed a committee that included John Amato (attending with Virginia), Boysie Bollinger, Patrick Brandau, Lynne Burkart, Jimmy Fitzmorris (a recent Boy Scouts awardee), Suzanne Mestayer, Joe Pappalardo, Ken Pickering, Clay Plaisance, Chad Saltzman, Chris Sarpy, Frank Stewart Jr. (with Paulette), and Jackie Sullivan. Most were present.

Along with the nod to the award, there was notable nourishment provided by the museum’s restaurant, The American Sector. Guests dipped shiny silverware into the selections of a three-course meal: mixed baby greens salad, grilled filet of beef, and flourless chocolate cake.

As for the formalities, Eric Paulsen, anchorman for WWL-TV served as master of ceremonies. Further headliners were Dr. Paul Gregoire of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for the invocation; the national anthem led by the museum’s Victory Belles; the pledge and Scouts’ Oath by local Scouts; and remarks by Council President Charles Rice Jr., president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans. Spouse Vonda Rice accompanied him.

Next up was Rick Haase, president of Latter & Blum, “the oldest and largest commercial and residential real estate operation in the Gulf South” with 1,400 agents and staff, 27 offices and a founding date of 1916. Scouts’ honoree Bob Merrick purchased Latter & Blum in 1986 and, under Merrick’s leadership, the company expanded its services. Haase introduced Bob Merrick and Joe Exnicios (with Deborah) presented the award.

In addition to his active roles in business affairs, Bob Merrick has held board positions on numerous civic and charitable organizations. As a recipient of the Distinguished Citizen Award, he furthers the goal of the Boys Scouts “to inspire youths to lead, accept responsibility and care about principles and causes beyond self-interest.” Also, in the spirit of those who give, get, Merrick gave a personal donation of $50,000 on the stage as he was receiving the award.

Among those applauding him were 2013 Distinguished Citizen Award recipient John Georges with spouse Dathel, Philip “Phil” Gunn, the George and the Bert Wilsons, Charles and Dorothy “Dottie” Nelson, Cornelius “Cocie” and Nancy Rathborne, Cynthia and Joe Molyneux, Robby and Leigh Moss, Dr. Peter and Lori Fos, Joe Canizaro, Gary Blossman, Warren and Nancy Reuther, Creed Brierre, Frank Tessier, Bruce and Lisa Clement, Pat and Dene Denechaud, Jim and Joanne Letten, Joy and Jay Zainey, and David Fennelly. For starters.

And when proceeds were tallied, the event raised approximately $300,000 to help Scouting’s youth development programs and its guideposts that will lead into a fulfilled adulthood.

Art for Kids

The handsome home of Stephanie and Jim Huger was the site for Cocktails for KID smART and the celebration of its founding 15 years ago by Allison Stewart and Campbell “Hutch” Hutchinson. The couple was honored along with former and current board chairmen Melanee Usdin (with Steve), Don Massey, R. Campbell Hutchinson, and Celeste Coco-Ewing (with Tom). Raine Bedsole, who recently had a successful show at Callan Contemporary Gallery, was the featured artist, and event sponsors and patrons received a special giclee, “Blue Coral,” done by her.

Features of “Cocktails” were numerous, including hors d’oeuvres, buffet pleasures and desserts (such as mini s’mores and cheesecake lollipops) by Joel Catering and Special Events; spirits by The Sazerac Company; music by David Pulphus and friends; and great weather, which meant that the home’s French doors were open for more party mobility.

Guests were also encouraged to get into the KID smART spirit by participating in hands-on arts activities led by the organization’s teaching artists. Hostess Stephanie’s ceramics studio was the spot for the creativity.

One of the loveliest “art” forms came from nature. Pam Dongieux and Caroline Calhoun —an event co-chairwoman along with hostess Stephanie — filled the Huger home with roses from Pam’s garden. The arrangement for the buffet table was stunning with ranunculus, seasonal fall foliage and the roses. Smaller arrangements graced almost every table.

Milling about in the crowd of around 200 were the hosting Hugers, the above Caroline Calhoun and husband Patrick, George Demmas with Raine Bedsole, Gretchen and Joel Dondis, Ellen and Mark Zetzman, KID smART Chairman-elect Scott Howard (of Regions Bank) with Janet, the above Phil Gunn, Patrick and Judge Sarah Vance, Nancy Moss, Lisa Puckett Sinders, Walton and Jeff Goldring, 2013 host couple Susu and Andrew Stall, and KID smART executive director Echo Olander and Sonny Schneidau.

Some of the evening’s chatter was about the organization’s focus of arts integration (linking arts instruction with the academic curriculum) in the 15 public elementary and middle schools that KID smArt works with for student, teacher and school success.

As for the gala party, it rated an A+.

Weiss Awards

On a recent Wednesday evening, Harry Rosenberg served as chairman for the annual Weiss Humanitarian Awards given by the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice and housed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Take a bow, 2014 recipients Gayle M. Benson, Dickie Brennan, Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn, Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Irvin Mayfield Jr. and Ashton Ryan Jr.

The 2013 awardees were Carol G. Asher, George J. Fowler III, John D. Georges, Stephen Michael “Steve” Gleason, Barbara Crain Major, James Meza Jr., Alvin L. Richard Jr., William Henry Shane Jr., Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, and Women of the Storm.

For the 2014 event, and in addition to the merits and the meal, there was a reception and a silent auction. Money raised will benefit NOCCJ, which was founded as the National Conference of Christians and Jews and serves as a human relations organization dedicated to understanding and respect.

The board’s officers are led off by Co-Chairmen the Rev. Joseph Doyle, SSJ, M. Cleland Powell III, and the above Harry Rosenberg, while Hilton S. Bell and Charles L. Rice Jr. (mentioned above), answer respectively to treasurer and secretary. The staff includes President and CEO Stephanie Bridges, Elaine Gross, Jordan M. Bridges, and David Jones II. Seventeen individuals are the NOCCJ’s General Members. All were joined in the purpose of “Opening minds and bringing people together.”

Follow this link to the photos.