With April being National Volunteer Recognition Month, several organizations took a moment to recognize those who help make their missions successful.
Sixteen individuals, five of them teenagers, were honored at the YMCA of the Capital Area’s annual Celebration & Volunteer Recognition Dinner on April 16 at the Crowne Plaza. Welcoming the several hundred guests were CEO Christian Engle and board Chairman Chris Spencer.
“The Y’s impact on this community does not go unnoticed,” said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, congratulating the organization on another successful year.
Echoing that sentiment was Congressman Garret Graves, a Y member who asked that his lack of attendance not be held against him, eliciting a laugh from the audience.
Engle, who has been on the job a year, proclaimed it “a year of discovery” with the approval of the Y’s first strategic plan. “I’m excited about the future,” he added.
Helping to secure that future are the many volunteers. Elena Mizell, who runs the Youth in Government program at the Baranco-Clark Y, received the Edward D. Grant Volunteerism Award. It was presented by last year’s recipient Ricky Blanton.
Tinisha Monroe received the Myron Falk Fundraising Award from last year’s recipient Ryan Engquist.
Branch Volunteers of the Year included Tommy Milazzo, A.C. Lewis YMCA; Jesse Moland, Americana YMCA; Herman Brister, Baranco-Clark YMCA; Alvin Burton, C.B. Pennington Jr. YMCA; Donald Elliott, Charles W. Lamar Jr. YMCA; Owen Cope, Dow Westside YMCA; Gloria Jefferson, ExxonMobil YMCA; Walker Johnson, Paula G. Manship YMCA; and Dr. Jeffrey Keller, Southside YMCA.
Youth Volunteers of the Year were Zoe Vilaysack, A.C. Lewis YMCA; Machaela Neal, Americana YMCA; Dealia Jones, Baranco-Clark YMCA; James Lalonde, C.B. Pennington Jr. YMCA; and Kennira Adams, Charles W. Lamar Jr. YMCA.
On April 15, Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge honored another group of teens at the 24th annual Louisiana Young Heroes Banquet at the Hilton Capitol Center. The night’s celebration was broadcast live via LPB’s website and Facebook page.
Rotary President Ann Trappey and LPB CEO Beth Courtney, who’s also a member of Rotary, welcomed everyone. The dinner topped off a day filled with activities for the honorees and their families. There were also visits to the State Capitol and lunch at the Old Governor’s Mansion.
The Young Heroes included area high school students Ryan Smith and Jamone Williams, of Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan School; Nalon Soileau, of Zachary, and a 10th grader at University High School; and Cade Canepa, of Watson, and a senior at Live Oak High School. Soileau was in Chile as part of a two-week exchange program so her mom accepted the award on her behalf.
Heroes also included Deondrais Boxley, an 11th grader at Vidalia High School; William Gaspard Jr., of Moreauville, a senior at Louisiana School for the Agricultural Sciences; Arianna Hannum, of Metairie, a senior at the Academy of Sacred Heart; and Sydney Lewis, of Pineville, a senior at Rapides High School.
For the first time, each young hero received a $1,000 tuition assistance grant from the Credit Union League. Neighbors Credit Union CEO Steve Webb handed out the checks.
This year’s event was chaired by Rotarians Lauren and Blake Fowler. Rotarian and trumpet player George Bell provided musical ambience for the night.
Before heading to the Hilton, I stopped by the Capital Park Museum where ExxonMobil was hosting a celebration of its announcement that the company was nearly doubling its polyolefins plant and its LED (Louisiana Economic Development) Fast Start Virtual Reality Project. All of this was in conjunction with the company’s 110-year anniversary of being here.
Joining company officials in the celebration were Congressman Garret Graves, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Baton Rouge Area Chamber CEO Adam Knapp and Louisiana Economic Development Deputy Secretary Brad Lambert.
Also getting some good news last week was Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area. Its Charlie's Place Activity & Respite Center received an Excellence in Care Dementia program of Distinction award from the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. Making the presentation to Executive Director Barbara Auten and center coordinator Dedrick Welch were Molly Fisher, AFA director of educational and social services, and AFA social worker Heather Saposnick. These two also conducted an informational seminar for caregivers.