On Tuesday, March 7, Volunteers of America honored special volunteers in north Louisiana for their selfless service during the annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon this week.
Approximately 130 people gathered for the celebration at East Ridge Country Club.
“As a new year begins, we are strategically looking for more ways and means to help the most vulnerable in our community. From providing life’s most basic needs – such as shelter, food and clothing – to eliminating barriers so that children graduate on time and succeed in life,” said President and CEO, Chuck Meehan. “Support from all of our volunteers makes this work possible.”
Last year, over 1,300 volunteers donated more than 7,300 hours to the organization.
Ellen Brown Spirit of Volunteerism Award: Mike Mawhinney and Loyola College Prep Key Club
This award honors the first director of the Highland Center, and continues to honor those who invest in the Highland Community. Loyola College Prep Key Club and its longtime Faculty Sponsor, Mike Mawhinney, received this award for its many years of outstanding service to Volunteers of America. Under Mike’s leadership, this organization has always been committed to finding ways to serve the most vulnerable. Mike sets the example of what it means to be a servant leader in our community.
Altrusa Award: Shelley Booker
The Altrusa award recognizes an individual or group that has given of themselves to bring life to the community while seeking nothing in return. For many years, Shelley Booker’s Sundayschool class at First United Methodist Church hosted a LARGE party every Christmas season for Volunteers of America’s mentors and their mentees as a way to bring everyone together and give the children a holiday to remember. Today, she can be found helping out wherever she is needed – whether that’s sponsoring a family in need during Christmas or dropping off treats and hosting parties for LightHouse kids to make them feel special and encouraged. You will never meet an individual who avoids the spotlight quite like she can, yet still shines bright.
Rachel Sparks Memorial Award: Ashley Sutton
Named for Volunteers of America’s longtime executive director, this award honors those who continue her legacy of leadership and excellence. Ashley Sutton is one of our most consistent volunteers and she has quietly helped any way she could for many, many years. She served on our Board of Directors for six years and then continued serving as Secretary of the board for an additional five years. She has been a Table Captain at our Cherish the Children of God breakfast for several years and has hosted special events in her beautiful home helping us honor those who support our special work. She never sits still or slows down. Three years ago, she began volunteering at our Corbitt Lodge apartments that offer permanent housing for individuals with disabilities. At the time, we were in need of someone to host a bingo game once a month with our residents and she accepted this opportunity without reservation.
Champion of Dignity Award: Jon and Tonya Katz
The Champion for Dignity award recognizes those volunteers who work with some of our neediest populations. Jon and Tonya Katz have faithfully served some of our most vulnerable clients, including children, families and homeless Veterans. Every month, Tonya bakes delicious desserts for those who find their way to Safe Haven, our low-barrier shelter for chronically homeless Veterans. In a world where these men may feel like they go unnoticed, the Katz family go beyond to make sure they know someone honors their service and cares about them. In addition to working with Veterans, Jon has been a mentor for one of our LightHouse kids for over three years. He has developed a very special bond with his mentee and we know that he has made a profound impact in this young man’s life.
Beacon of Hope Award: Tara Love and the High School Ministry of First Baptist Bossier
This year, the LightHouse program celebrates 28 years of being a part of Volunteers of America serving as a beacon of hope to children and communities in desperate need of more light. This year’s honoree is a group of individuals whose passion to serve their community has created true and lasting friendships with the children at our Bossier LightHouse. Tara Love and the High School Ministry of First Baptist Bossier have selflessly served our LightHouse children for two years and counting. Their dedication to serve goes beyond the walls of the Scott Street LightHouse site. A few of the students who are part of the Airline High School Student Council were responsible for nominating the Bossier LightHouse to be their Community Non-Profit Organization. As a result, they donated over 6,500 items and $3,000 to our LightHouse program. Tara and her High School Ministry of First Bossier invests love, faith, and encouragement into our LightHouse kids.
Humanitarian Award: Judge Thomas Eaton Stagg, Jr.
Philanthropy is too often oversimplified as just donating to charity. In reality, it is about making an investment in the community that will result in long-term change. This year’s honoree had a long, rich and distinguished history in this community. We honored posthumously Thomas Eaton Stagg, Jr. He was an attorney, businessperson, politician and jurist who served for many years on the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Prior to his appointment as a federal judge, he did the work he enjoyed more than anything he ever did – serving as Volunteers of America North Louisiana’s adoption attorney. In so doing so, he helped create many loving families in our community. Judge Stagg died in June of 2017 at the age of 92. He blessed our special ministry of service with his legal adoption work over 60 years ago – with his ongoing financial support – and after his death with a generous gift from his estate. His loving wife, Miki, honored her husband and his military service by donating his extensive wardrobe to benefit Veterans in our programs. It is truly a great pleasure to recognize a true humanitarian by presenting Volunteers of America’s 2017 Humanitarian Award to Judge Stagg’s family.