I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving. It was nice to take a moment and get centered for the rest of the upcoming holiday festivities. Events already have been filling the calendar for the past few weeks, including the Emerge Center’s Volunteer Activists Luncheon and the Inner Civic Council’s Golden Deeds Award Banquet.
There were several emotional moments at this year’s Volunteer Activists Luncheon Nov. 16 at the Renaissance, where past recipients present the awards. Two that had everyone on their feet clapping were when former activists Susan and Richard Lipsey presented the award to daughter Wendy, and when Norman Deumite presented the award to daughter Staci Duhé.
Wendy and Staci were among this year's 13 honorees, who also included Coletta Barrett, Jim Brandt, Nancy Crawford, Alsie Dunbar, Edmund Giering, Dr. Fatemeh Malekian, Rolfe McCollister, Levar Robinson, Todd Schexnayder, Ann Trappey and Emerging Young Activist Hailey Junca.
The prestigious Margaret Neely Award, named for the center’s first director, was presented to long-time emcee John Pastorek by Executive Director Melissa Juneau in recognition of his many years of dedication to the agency.
For the second time in as many weeks, the community got together to salute former WAFB news anchor Donna Britt, whose battle with ALS forced her to step away from the news desk after 37 years. This time, Donna received the 77th annual Golden Deeds Awards at the Nov. 13 banquet at the Marriott. The event is presented by The Advocate, Inter-Civic Council and, new this year, Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry. A VIP reception for past honorees and members of the Inter-Civic Council and special guests was underwritten by Paretti Jaguar Land Rover.
Speaker District Attorney Hillar Moore dubbed Donna the “first lady of Baton Rouge broadcasting.”
“She used her high-profile job to rally support for various causes,” said Moore, who then proceeded to list several of them. “She was even queen of Spanish Town (Mardi Gras). She is dedicated to her faith, her family and her community. She is truly golden.”
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome proclaimed it Donna Britt Day throughout the parish and presented Donna with the key to the city. “I’d love to see that door,” quipped Donna. “It’ll open any door you want,” assured the mayor.
Joining the sold-out event were lots of media types including former on-air partner George Sells, WAFB News Director Rob Hayes, Julie Baxter Payer, Meg Casper Sunstrom, Kiran Chawla, Mary Durusau and Barry Erwin, Laurie Hardison, Whitney Vann, Sonny Cranch and two that really touched Donna’s heart.
“It made my heart sing that Elizabeth Vowell (who assumed the WAFB anchor job) and Sylvia Weatherspoon (WBRZ news anchor) are here,” she said.
John Pastorek once again served as emcee for the evening, which was chaired by Laura Gilliland. Dee Munzler is president of the Inter-Civic Council. The Advocate was represented by President Judi Terzotis and Lee Michaels by Leslie and Scott Berg.
Guests went down the rabbit hole for the Knock Knock Children’s Museum’s debut Storybook Soirée on Nov. 16. The museum was transformed into Alice’s Wonderland, complete with Mad Hatter, portrayed by Ford Thomas. Many of the guests also came in costume, which made for a festive evening.
Among the crowd were founders Crickett Gordon and husband Gordon, Cate Heroman and Staci Duhé, who was accompanied by her costume-clad family. Also spotted were Amanda and Rhein Standish, John Turner and Jerry Fischer, Susan Turner, Moo Svendson, Garland Goodwin, Kay and Norman Deumite with sons Sloan and Scott, Marc Goldstein, Barbara Anne Eaton, Elizabeth Eaton, Jennifer Greeson, Donna Saurage, Genny Nadler Thomas, Alena and Ryan Hanie, and Joanne and Juan Carrillo.
Waiting on a Cure
“Fabulous Las Vegas” was the theme for this year’s Waiting on a Cure event benefiting the Bella Bowman Foundation, which took place Nov. 15 at the Burbank location of Walk-Ons. And what would Vegas be without a cast of characters?
Stepping up as celebrity waiters were Dr. Kelly and Sean Finan as a wedding chapel couple; Shyla and Garrett Hiebert as an Elvis couple; Ann Piazza and Alyse Boulanger as the Queens of Hearts; poker players Aaron "Mugsy" Saulnier and Dixon Wallace McMakin; pro wrestlers Preston Lamy and Ryan Allen; Lexie Polito and Ashley Fontenot as Britney and J-Lo; Katie and Ian Dallimore as 007 and Betsy and Marc Fraioli as Pink and “ho.”
My second stop on Nov. 15 was the Old State Capitol, where the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts was holding one of its Aioli Dinners. Hosts for the evening were Daynese and Randy Haynie and Alana and Ryan Haynie. Special guests were Gov. John Bel and Donna Edwards.
Heirloom Cuisine and the Blue Dog Café, of Lafayette, whipped up the fabulous meal.
Stop No. 3 on the 15th was at the Old Governor’s Mansion where YELP! was hosting a Worldly Eats tasting to benefit Preserve Louisiana. Among those sampling the culinary creations and libations were Bobbie Carey, Barbara Matens, Roxanne Voohries, Erin and Scott Uffman and Peggy and Jimmy McDonald.
Celebrate the Family
The night wrapped up at the Capitol Park Welcome Center, where Family Service of Greater Baton was hosting its Celebrate the Family All Red Affair. This year’s honored families included the Alvarez family — Anita, Carlos, Ann and Sebastian — along with Rep. Ted James; Kathy and Michael Victorian; and the Bevan family — Dan, Cathy and daughter Rita Milano.
Serving as emcees for the night were Talk 107.3's Bill Profita and Kevin Gallagher.
Earlier on Nov. 15, the heart-tugging Celebration of Life & Sight Thanksgiving Service was hosted by the Baton Rouge Regional Eye Bank and Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA). John Pastorek led everyone in the traditional response prayer, “We Remember Them.”
After hearing the stories of donor parents Peggy and Don Guillot, who donated the organs of 15-year-old daughter Shawn to save six people, and two-time cornea transplant recipient Lisa Smith, donor family members and organ recipients came to the altar and lit a candle. The service wrapped up with everyone singing “Amazing Grace” before the reception hosted by the Eye Bank Auxiliary.
It’s open! Finally after eight years of hard work and the generosity of many, the Companion Animal Alliance’s new shelter is up and running. The 30,000-square-foot, $13 million state-of-the-art facility was built on the LSU campus not far from the Vet School, whose students will help staff the center.
President Christel Slaughter said that since the group took over the parish animal shelter, 42,000 dogs and cats had been cared for in the no-kill shelter. “That’s tremendous!,” she said.
Echoing that sentiment were LSU President F. King Alexander, capital campaign co-chairmen Charlie Lamar and Henson Moore, Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker and Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, who seemed to be doing a bit of puppy shopping.
A few days earlier, I joined wine aficionados for The Assemblage hosted by Juban’s to benefit the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society. It was a great way to “shop” for the holidays.