BR celebrates women, more

Days are set aside throughout the year to celebrate various things and people: Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, Mother’s and Father’s Day. Here in Baton Rouge, we have an entire week where we celebrate women, thanks to the coordinated efforts of the Women’s Council of Greater Baton Rouge.

Women’s Week

As it does every year, the 13th annual Women’s Week kicked off with a luncheon at Boudreaux’s. Featured speaker for the Sept. 27 gathering was “story stylist” Melinda Walsh, who talked about “sheroes.” She was introduced by friend Jeff Kleinpeter, who shared how she has helped Kleinpeter Farms Dairy tell its story through clever advertising campaigns.

“We all tell the story of who we are with every word that comes out of our mouths,” said Walsh. “But the most important story we tell is the one we tell ourselves about ourselves. You get to choose the role you play, who is in the cast. If you don’t like the role you’re playing, change it. You’re the director of your life … Sheroes manager themselves … claim their superpower.”

Walsh also told the record crowd that she was recently engaged. The lucky man is Tom Naylor. But she wasn’t the only new bride-to-be at the luncheon. Emcee and WAFB news anchor Lauren Westbrook was also sporting a shiny diamond on her left hand after saying yes to Ryan Byrd.

A group of 70-something-year-old “sheroes,” who have definitely claimed their superpowers, is the 2013 Silver Magnolias, who were recognized at the luncheon. They include Estella Lee Bank, Grace Biekliewicz, Joan Bonds, Lee Caplan, Elizabeth Dent, Bobbye Heath, Melba Moye, Lynn Robbins, Winnie Penson and Delores Spikes. They received a Congressional Certificate from Congressman Bill Cassidy, as did the Women’s Council in recognition of Women’s Week.

Women of Distinction

It was rather fitting that Girl Scouts Louisiana East recognized nine women at its annual Women of Distinction awards dinner that evening at the Hilton Capitol Center. The honorees included Girl Scout supporters Li nda Law Clark, Genny May, Anne Wintz Roberts, Julie Rose and Jacqui Vines, all of Baton Rouge; Peggy Armstrong and Dr. Christy Valentine, of New Orleans; and Brenda LeRoux Babin, of Houma.

Ann Forte Trappey served as chairwoman and emcee of the dinner. Assisting her with the awards’ presentation was board chairwoman Robyn Merrick and Mary-Patricia Wray.

The celebration wrapped up with dancing to the sounds of After 8.

Making a Difference

Addiction costs taxpayers and businesses $484 billion a year. That’s a pretty hefty price tag. Fortunately here in Baton Rouge, we have O’Brien House, a place of hope for the indigent addict. It hosted its annual fundraising breakfast, One Person Making a Difference, Sept. 25 at the Hilton Capitol Center.

While there were several moving stories shared at this event — founder John Camp, Executive Director Katherine Martin — none was more powerful than that of board member Fred Blanche III. He told how he looked in the mirror one day to find a large tattoo, “Thug Life,” emblazoned on his chest. Now sober and thanks to the efforts of a doctor friend, that tattoo now reads “Hug Life,” which is what he is now doing thanks to O’Brien House.

LEAF Award

Stop No. 2 on the 25th was the Baton Rouge Gallery, where the BREC Foundation was honoring former longtime BREC Commission chairman Bill Cocreham with its LEAF Award.

As foundation board president Todd Graves explained in presenting the award, LEAF stands for Leadership, Excellence, Activism and Fellowship. He then told Cocreham: “We got one of your old partners in crime to come talk about you,” as he introduced former BREC Superintendent Eugene Young.

Young shared how he and Cocreham met in 1970 at the opening of the first phase of the Baton Rouge Zoo and, because of the stewardship of Cocreham and others, “We were able to deliver much more than what we promised.”

Board vice president Kim Hunter Reed served as the afternoon’s emcee.

Blue Ribbon Soirée

The final stop of the day was the third annual Blue Ribbon Soirée benefiting prostate cancer research at Tulane Cancer Center. The Renaissance Hotel ballroom was packed with supporters of this worthy cause and those who wanted to rub shoulders with honorary co-chairmen LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri and women’s gymnastics coach D-D Breaux, who brought along a few of her gymnasts to help out.

Of course, you can’t have a fundraiser without local restaurants providing some yummy eats. Stepping up for this cause were Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Serops Café, Oak Lodge Catering, Mestizo Mexican Restaurant, Juban’s, Walk-On’s Catering, Tallulah, Frank Marcello’s, What’s Shakin’ Leroy’s, Bistro Byronz, Louisiana Lagniappe, Poupart Bakery, Sammy’s Grill. Libations were complements of Paul Bologna Fine Wines, Chandon, Black Castle, Michelob Ultra, Sweet Water and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Serving on the soirée committee were Paul Bologna, Julie Ferachi, Kathy and Ricky Lato, Rhonda Lindsly, Frances and Gary McConnell, Emily Monsour, Jane Nasca, Gracie Rigell and Daniel Williams.

Mighty Mississippi

Mary Ann Sternberg, author of “River Road Rambler” and “Along the River Road”; Louisiana Chemical Association President Dan Borné; and Port of Greater Baton Rouge Executive Director Jay Hardman were the featured speakers at a talk on the Mississippi River hosted by the Old State Capitol Associates Sept. 24. The evening began with a reception in the Senate Chamber before everyone meandered over to the House Chamber for the presentation.

Among the interesting tidbits I learned: a lot of the old buildings in New Orleans are built with lumber from junked barges and keel boats because they could only travel down the Mississippi; you never say north and south when talking about the Mississippi but “up river” and “down river”; and the port is shipping out the really cool wooden pellets to Britain that they use for heating.

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