Power of 9 breakfast salutes generous hearts

Power of 9 Super Volunteers honored

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Lod Cook Center at LSU was filled with laughter and chatter as families and friends gathered to watch the twelve winners of the Power of 9 awards gather more praise for their works.

The breakfast crowd enjoyed country sausage, cheese grits and chunky hashbrowns as Rick Kearny of Capital One Bank praised volunteers for their positive impact on the community.

Kearny also reminded the crowd that volunteer work for his Capital One employees really gave them cause to be proud and enjoy their relationships with students who are struggling in schools, and gathering toys for the Salvation Army's Angel Tree children, participating in Race for the Cure and other efforts.

Kearny said you give employees company time to do these things because it's a good use of the employee energies and the workers really look forward to the fun they have.

In fact, enjoying the act of volunteering is a theme that runs through every story honored. Because WAFB profiles one volunteer individual or group per month, they were organized chronologically.

January - Edna Cosey, whose church and SU scholarship programs are outstanding.

February - St. James VITA Volunteers, who are parish workers who see people struggling and then have permission from the St. James Parish Council to slip into their volunteer jobs and help guide people on how to file their taxes, where to seek help paying their bills and other financial mentoring.

March - Shell Geismar employees described a program in its infancy that started with just three workers volunteering at Gonzales Primary School Reading Program. They enjoyed it so much, the enthusiasm spread through the plant like wildfire and now 80 are active.

April - Elsa Galarza is a one-woman welcome wagon for internationals moving to Baton Rouge without enough English to navigate our rules and programs.

May - Laura Gardner is a former rape victim who turned her trauma into a wonderful nurturing of abused and neglected children through the Children's Advocacy Center.

June - Peggy Casanova is a bubbly, sparkling personality in the West Feliciana Community Center. As a member of Happi Llandiers, she answers questions people have about their state aid, how to get help paying their electric bill. She's like a human Google search engine.

July - Tanya Whitney is a war veteran whose energies are to support veterans, help organize a veterans memorial park and programs for vets. She also has been a volunteer coach for her daughter's St. Amant track team, and now that her daughter is an adult they both coach the team.

August - Joey Bunch is a mom with a husband and kids who enthusiastically help foster animals who do not have homes. Over time, they have helped to foster 150 animals for the Companion Animal Alliance.

September - Kristin Smith is a teacher at East Feliciana High School who adapted the United Way's Youth Volunteer Corps to become one of the school's uber-popular clubs. Students develop their own ideas for charity fundraisers and outreach projects.

October - Buddies@LSU are 50 LSU students who each adopt a kid from Baton Rouge Big Buddy program. Over the months of the year, they spend time with the kid, organize group events that are a blast, and take the kids to tour the college campus. It inspires the child to dream big of college one day.

November - Sue Hilliard volunteers for Theatre Baton Rouge, organizing fundraisers for Summer Theatre Camp Scholarships, but also for Cancer Services. Hilliard loves taking on new charity challenges and has many community projects going at once.

December - ConnecTeens are the youth program sponsored by Volunteer Ascension. WAFB saw them at Special Tuesday, an event for developmentally handicapped people but also disabled people, but they also volunteer in areas that interest them, like St. Elizabeth Hospital and more than 20 other community agencies and programs.

Darrin Goss, United Way's CEO who is about to leave Baton Rouge for a United Way post in another state, challenged the crowd to go back to their employers and ask for employee volunteer projects...to spread the joy among not only workers, but the community at-large.

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