Only one week remains until we recognize six outstanding Champions of Service October 24 in Baton Rouge. Some tickets are still available. It is going to be an amazing evening of celebration and recognition with our host, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne. We are grateful to the sponsors who have made this event a success: LaCapitol Federal Credit Union, Shell Oil, the Atlanta Falcons, Louisiana Chemical Association, Chesapeake Energy, Louisiana Lottery, RoyOMartin, Barksdale Federal Credit Union, Bossier Chamber of Commerce, Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Baton Rouge, Associated Grocers and Abita Brewing Company.
The state honoree, Warrick Dunn, is a Baton Rouge native and former Catholic High School football and track star. He had a stellar 12-year career in the National Football League, earning multiple Pro Bowl Selections with the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as winning the 1997 Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and the 2004 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. He established Warrick Dunn Charities, an organization that provides programs and services for single parents who are committed to achieving stability for themselves and their children.
“Getting this honor from my native state is something very special. I am proud to be from Baton Rouge where my life began and where I still feel at home,” Dunn said. “Home is where everything begins for me and it's how I started on the whole subject of volunteerism. Losing my mother to a violent crime when I was only 18 years old left a big hole in my life and it also meant the sudden end to her dream of providing us with our very own home. The impact her death had on me was difficult and challenging but it also inspired me to work hard outside of my football duties so I could bring meaning and a proud legacy to who she was.”
The five regional champions of service are Cyndi Dicarlo, Geismar; Francis “Frank” Elliott, Pineville; Brittany Kelly, Lake Charles; Nhu Ngoc Pham, New Orleans; and the Barksdale Air Force Volunteers, Shreveport.
Cyndi Dicarlo is a volunteer with The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a global nonprofit crucial to the betterment of single-parent homes. As a divorced, single mother of two and a full-time professor at LSU, she understands the struggles of balancing financial obligations on one income. She came to The Life of a Single Mom Ministries to find friendships and network, but quickly became one of the most faithful volunteers. She brings humility and the willingness to perform any task to meet the mission of the organization. She returns phone calls to clients, provides lay counseling, even taking out the trash. She now serves as Treasurer of the Board of Directors.
Frank Elliott, an 83-year-old retired school principal, has been a CASA volunteer. His most recent case from 2004 to 2013, he visited the child every month. He also attended family conferences with Dept of Child and Family Services and attended court every six months. The client whom he visited was nine years old when the case began and 18 years old when it concluded. The client was moved at least nine times to various parts of the state, and was even placed in Corpus Christi, TX, following Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Elliott drove to Corpus every month to visit the child. He did not miss a single month visiting the child. He was the only constant in this child’s life. He encouraged, corrected and “stuck” with his client through good times and bad.
Brittany Kelly will be beginning her third term of service as an AmeriCorps member with Impact Lake Charles, which provides educational support to the most at-risk students in Lake Charles public schools. She has helped with after-school activities and is always present to be a consistent role model to her students. She shows up early, is prepared and researches extra assignments to help students succeed. She schedules appointments for teachers and parents and ensures the meetings are held. She encourages students to check out books and read, and though initially met with resistance, her students are not doing it on their own and bringing books to read at school and after-school.
Nhu Ngoc Pham, a Tulane University junior, is deeply invested in working with local and global leaders to make quality healthcare more accessible for low-income communities and people of color. As a health care intern with the Micah Project, Ms. Pham is participating in a community-based research study focused on improving healthcare systems operations and reducing the cost of emergency room visits for low-income residents. In addition to this project, Ms. Pham regularly provides language translation services for various nonprofits and conducts weekly visits with residents at the St. Charles Health Care Center. Her passion for this work has positioned her as a leader both on and off campus. She also serves as Tulane’s campus director for Net Impact’s Small Steps, Big Win Challenge and is working to develop an undergraduate mentoring program to promote academic success and engaged learning initiatives with the Tulane student body.
The men and women from Barksdale Air Force Base (BAFB) are the first to help when a call for volunteers goes out in the Shreveport-Bossier area. In the last two years more than 300 airmen gave their time to help with 61 events. They are a visible force throughout the community helping with varied events including Mardi Gras parades, LHSAA regional basketball finals and golf championships, Bassmaster Classic, Forrest Wood Cup and the LA Film Prize. They do everything from set up and take down, volunteer registration, event registration and helping with crowd control. Encouraged to volunteer throughout their military careers, volunteer service becomes a part of who they are for many airmen and retirees.
The event also features a service project in partnership with Blue Star Mothers of Louisiana. Attendees will have the opportunity to write cards of support and thanks to Louisiana troops serving overseas. The cards will be part of care packages sent to the troops for Veterans Day.