Kierce Smith, a 12-year-old student at Glasgow Middle School, was recognized for his outstanding volunteer service during the 25th annual, and first virtual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards national recognition celebration.

Caroline Whisonant, 18, of Winnfield, was the only other Louisiana student recognized.

In recognition of the spirit of service that they have demonstrated in their communities, 100 top youth volunteers from across the country were each given $2,500 to donate toward the local COVID-19 response efforts of a nonprofit organization of their choice. These funds come in addition to the $1,000 scholarship and engraved silver medallion they earned as Louisiana's top youth volunteers of 2020.

Kierce has volunteered for a wide range of service projects, including to help plant a school garden to grow herbs and spices that could be sold to local merchants. He also helped fill and carry sandbags to their vehicles for older citizens and spread awareness of the dangers of dying after a water rescue. He has helped sort, wash and fold school uniforms donated at the end of the school year for families in need. Kierce has served as a counselor at a grief camp. He next plans to volunteer at a homeless or animal shelter.

“I learned that even if there is no reward, it is rewarding to do the right thing,” Kierce said.

Imagination Leads honors Purple Pen recipients

Imagination Leads, a nonprofit organization that promotes cultural and literary experiences and leadership development in communities of color, celebrated its third anniversary by honoring its inaugural class of Purple Pen recipients at the Brunch on the Bluff fundraiser on March 14 at the The Valdry Center for Philanthropy.

Founder Erika L. Green and the board of directors welcomed guests. Instrumental entertainment was provided by Justin Rendell.

Recipients of the Purple Pen, honored for being creative partners in expanding the mission of the organization, are Green, Jacqueline Jones, Henry Tillman, Mary Stein, Tameka Roby and Doris Brown.

Honored as ILEAD Mentors were Dasiny Davis, Chrysdyanna Williams, Zana Langley, Ashley Cox Coates, Ethel Clay, Jude August, Alexis Ray and Green. 

The organization's board of directors are Johnathan S. Hill, Aneatra Boykin, Edwia Richardson, Jaborie Green, Raegan A. Carter, Natashia Carter Benoit, Quintillis K. Lawrence, Linda A. Green and Dara Joy Walters.

LSU student receives SMART scholarship

Rory Hector, an LSU electrical engineering doctoral student, recently became only the fourth LSU student to receive the Department of Defense’s SMART Scholarship, which was established as a concentrated effort to enhance the department’s workforce with “talented, innovative, and brilliant scientists, engineers and researchers.”

The scholarship will provide Hector, a native of Monterey, with full tuition, a monthly stipend, health insurance, a book allowance and a summer internship that will last eight to 12 weeks.

After completing his Ph.D., which includes a focus on parallel and distributed computing, particularly as it applies to coordination problems for robot swarms, Hector will work in a civilian position with his sponsoring facility, the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, Florida.

Companies give to food banks

Baton Rouge Telco Federal Credit Union will donate $10,000 to support local food banks that are facing an increased demand as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Of the $10,000 donation, $7,500 will go to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, and $2,500 will be allocated to the Tangi Food Pantry.

“This donation can provide up to 22,500 meals to help us meet the increased need we are seeing now as well as those already relying on our services,” said Mike Manning, president and CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, which serves 11 parishes. 

BASF has donated $50,000 to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. The donation also provides ongoing support to feed hungry students through the BackPack program in Ascension Parish.

BASF’s annual support of the BackPack program provides more than 3,000 backpacks of food to hungry students in Ascension Parish elementary schools each year. This year, BASF has doubled its donation in support of the COVID-19 response.

The donation to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank to support COVID-19 response is part of a larger gift from BASF in North America totaling $365,000 to food banks within the Feeding America network. Additionally, BASF will match employees’ individual contributions up to $500 per employee.

Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance is giving $10,000 to Our Daily Bread of Tangipahoa, which was nominated by Shae Crain of Blumberg & Associates, as part of an Emergency Community Support Grant to help independent insurance agents give back to their local community during the COVID-19 crisis. The donation will go directly to Our Daily Bread of Tangipahoa, a nonprofit organization dedicated to alleviate hunger in the communities they serve.

The $10,000 donation will be used to help the food bank purchase items for hot meals, pay additional staff during this crisis and general expenses due to handling large flow.

The Ponchatoula community can get involved and give to the food bank by volunteering to help with the food line and distribution of boxes. For more information, visit

The “Community” column runs every Monday and Tuesday in The Advocate. Items should be submitted to “Community,” Advocate Living section, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821, or emailed to Events should be submitted in a timely fashion. By submitting photos to The Advocate, you agree that they can be published in any of The Advocate’s print or digital publications.