Last week had me stomping grapes, feasting on culinary delights and once again learning about amazing efforts to make Baton Rouge one of America’s greatest cities.
I’m not Italian, but I got to play one when my buddies with the Greater Baton Rouge Italian American Association enlisted my help on Sept. 18 in a grape-stomping demo for clients of Alzheimer’s Services Charlie’s Place. Phillip Cancelleri and Frank Arrigo must think I’m an expert — I’ve participated in the association’s celebrity grape stomp for the past eight years or so.
The demonstration on this day was part of a celebration of all things Italian, from the language to the food, complements of Monjuni’s. Frank led a group in a rousing rendition of “Eh, Cumpari” that had us making the sounds of various instruments. I got to be the trumpet, and I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
On Sept. 20, I floated (thank you Mother Nature) into Ann Connelly Fine Art for the Charity Ball Association’s annual new member party. Welcoming guests was association President Andrea Van Burkleo and party planners Dede Ferrara and Jennifer Eplett Reilly.
Welcomed as new members were Courtney and Todd Newbill, Ashley and Brennan Uter, Garland and Billy Goodwin, Candace and Sinclair Kouns, Ashley and Chuck Gordon, Jenny and Todd Jackson, Sara and Trey Monsour, Elizabeth and Tracy Rutledge, and Mary and Brent Upton.
I was up bright and early on Sept. 21 for O’Brien House’s 16th annual breakfast at the Crowne Plaza. Welcoming the several hundred guests were board Chairman Chris Suba and Executive Director Todd Hamilton.
This year, the keynote speakers were the O'Brien House's essay contest winners, Jessica Wilhelm and Beverly Brooks Thompson, both of whom received standing ovations. Jessica, a student at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, won for her heart-tugging story of living with an addicted mother. Thompson, who was the "adult in recovery" winner, is a well-known marketing guru in town. She had us all in shock as she shared her story of alcohol addiction and sobriety. Her opening line, “Alcoholics don’t drink out of Waterford glasses,” was more telling than almost anything else she said. At the end of the breakfast, she was embraced by friends who had no idea of what Beverly and her family had been through. I hope she felt the love and support that permeated the room from all of us.
Both of those stories, as well as the testimonies from a few O’Brien House clients, made it easy for us to open our wallets when asked by board member Amy Strother to help O’Brien House continue to help those in our community battling alcohol and drug addiction.
I had lunch later that day with another organization working hard to better our community. This City Year event kicked off its Red Jacket Weekend and served as a thank you for some of its champions. For the current school year, City Year’s 96 AmeriCorps members are working in 13 Baton Rouge public and charter schools. Three of them shared their experiences: Lamar Advertising team members Treon Austin, who works at Melrose Elementary; Lucy Blair, who works at IDEA Bridge Academy & College Prep; and Jalen Shelvin, who works at Broadmoor High.
We also heard from Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, advisory board Chairwoman Laura Poché and Executive Director Jada Lewis.
On the evening of Sept. 21, I popped in at the Baton Rouge Country Club where the Sons of the American Revolution Gen. Philemon Thomas Chapter were holding their annual Constitution Dinner — the finale of Constitution Week. Members looked quite gallant in their tuxedos, many adorned with medals. Guest speaker for the night was John deGravelles, federal judge for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Sept. 23 found me at The Crown Bistro, located inside the Royal Standard on Perkins Road, for the Teal Reveal brunch and style show benefiting the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance. It was a project of the Kelli Richmond Ovarian Cancer Foundation and Kelli’s Kloset, which provides gently used clothing for women cancer patients as their weight fluctuates during treatment. Clothes from Kelli’s Kloset were modeled in the style show. Emcee for the afternoon was Aimée Simon.
Beaming with pride at the fantastic turnout was mom Patsy Richmond. She and husband Ron have worked tirelessly since the death of their 30-year-old daughter to make her dream of Kelli’s Kloset a reality and to grant “birthday wishes” for women fighting cancer. Having had the privilege of knowing Kelli and documenting her journey, I feel sure she is all smiles up in heaven.
In the middle of all this fun, I had a chance to get pampered by two of my favorite guys, Kevin Kimball and Leo Verde. They were the organizers of a restaurant crawl on Sept.18 that hit all of the eateries under the Wayne Stabiler Companies umbrella. Among those joining in the fun were Carly Laing and Gerron Jordan from NBC33’s morning show, Season Vining and André Hellickson with Dig Magazine and local food bloggers Jessica Black, Erin Bowling, Darian Esser, Krystal Faircloth, Morgy Fugarino, Bridgette Gray, Emily Green, Victoria Hines, Taylor Jacobs, Annie and Laci Nguyen, Leslie Presnell, Chad Schoonmaker and Lala Vied.
We started off at Stab’s Prime on Jefferson, then headed to Stab’s Steak & Seafood in Central, followed by a stop at the Little Village downtown then Palermo Ristorante. We ended the night back where we started, finishing off the evening with Stab’s signature chocolate martini or a glass of its proprietary red wine, Terroir. It was a culinary experience I’ll never forget.