2014 Leaders In Philanthropy Awards Luncheon


Community Foundation of Acadiana’s (CFA) fourth-annual Leaders in Philanthropy Awards Luncheon was held on November 14, 2014 at the Cajundome Convention Center. The event celebrated outstanding philanthropists from eight parishes across Acadiana who have made a positive impact in their communities.  This year, an inaugural Corporate Award was also presented to Stone Energy, a local company with a history of supporting many great causes in the community.

The event also featured keynote speaker Stephen Post, founder of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Post shared the links scientists have uncovered between giving and happiness, focusing on the impact on overall well-being that comes from caring for others.

To read more about the 2014 Leaders In Philanthropy winners click on the parishes listed below:

Acadia Parish- Bobby and Mollie Hanks Evangeline Parish- Gervis LaFleur
Iberia Parish- Donald "Doc" VoorhiesLafayette Parish- Bob Lowe
St. Landry Parish- Dr. Joe H. Wilson St. Martin Parish- Virginia Olivier Yongue
St. Mary Parish- Johnny and Mary Lou ConradVermilion Parish- Mary Ellen Sonnier

For information on our keynote speaker Stephen G. Post, please click here.

2014 Leaders In Philanthropy Award Recipients:

Bobby and Mollie Hanks

Bobby and Mollie Hanks have been selected to receive the 2014 Leaders In Philanthropy Award for their many contributions to Acadia Parish.

The Hanks family generously donates their time, energy and resources to causes supporting the betterment of Acadia Parish. Their efforts have especially benefitted St. Michael Church and Elementary School, Notre Dame High School, Academy of the Sacred Heart, as well as both the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Louisiana State University’s athletic programs. Bobby was also instrumental in the development and completion of Notre Dame High School’s Athletic Field House.

Bobby is owner and CEO of Louisiana Rice Mill, and has been active in the agricultural community for many years. He has held board memberships with the Rice Millers Association, USA Rice Federation and the Louisiana Agricultural Commodities Commission. He also serves as vice president of the Notre Dame Advisory Board.

Mollie is a member of the Crowley Solitic Club, and served as treasurer of the St. Michael Elementary Parent Teacher Organization for three years. She is also a longtime volunteer at St. Michael Elementary, Notre Dame High School and Academy of the Sacred Heart.

Mollie and Bobby are natives of Acadia Parish, graduates of Notre Dame High School and members of St. Michael Catholic Church. In 2011, they were honored as St. Michael Elementary Supporters of the Year. Mollie and Bobby have been married for 19 years and have three children.

Gervis LaFleur

Gervis LaFleur has been selected to receive the 2014 Leaders In Philanthropy Award for his leadership, dedication and genuine commitment to the Evangeline Parish community.

Gervis is in his 50th year leading the Evangeline Community Action Agency as its executive director and has been honored with the State of Louisiana Humanitarian Award from the State Association of Community Action Agencies. He served as Deacon and church clerk for 50 years, and teaches Sunday school at Antioch Baptist Church of Ville Platte. He is president of the Eastern Seventh District Baptist Association Deacon Union, vice president of Brotherhood Louisiana Home and Foreign Mission Baptist State Convention, and serves on the board of Mercy Regional Hospital of Ville Platte and Eunice, Louisiana campuses.

Gervis served on the National At-Risk Migrant Children Board with then-Governor Clinton of Arkansas. He was also a member of the Louisiana State University at Eunice (LSUE) Advisory board, the Evangeline Parish School Board for 14 years and the Ville Platte Vocational-Technical School Advisory Board. He served on the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board for 11 years and was a member of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Board. Gervis was also president of the Ville Platte High School Booster Club, the Ville Platte High School Band Parent Organization and founding manager and coach of the Ville Platte Boxing Club.

Gervis devotes his energy to anti-poverty efforts, and hopes the future of Evangeline Parish will be one of hope and opportunity for all its residents. He is passionate about serving Evangeline Parish, and has inspired many others along his journey of community service through his unselfish dedication. He encourages people to embrace community service and to find their own ways to give back.

Gervis and his wife, Lena, have been happily married for 59 years. They have four children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Donald "Doc" Voorhies

Donald "Doc” Voorhies has been selected to receive the 2014 Leaders In Philanthropy Award for his many contributions in the Iberia Parish community.

Doc is a native of New Iberia and earned his B.S. from Loyola University and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He then returned to New Iberia where he taught mathematics at Catholic High for 33 years. In addition to teaching students in the classroom, he actively participated in organizing science and social studies fairs, literary rallies and mathematics tournaments. He also aided in the improvement of athletic and academic facilities at the school.

Doc is a longtime supporter of the Bayou Teche Museum, the Belgian Student Exchange Program, Nativity Catholic Church, and has served on the board of Shadows on the Teche and the Iberia Performing Arts League (IPAL). In addition to acting and directing at IPAL, he also supervises publicity and outreach activities. He lends a hand to other community programs including the New Iberia Balconies Festival and El Festival Español de Nueva Iberia.

"Doc,” as his students affectionately called him, has always believed that an individual’s time, talent and treasure exists to serve the larger community. His selfless dedication to giving back has been an inspiration to his students and the entire community.

Bob Lowe 
Bob Lowe has been selected to receive the 2014Leaders In Philanthropy Award for Lafayette Parish for the great impact he has made in the Lafayette Parish community and across the state of Louisiana.

Bob served in the United States Marine Corps from 1941 to 1943 and fought at Pearl Harbor as a member of the 2nd Marine Division on December 7, 1942. He received his flight training in the United States Navy before returning to the United States Marine Corps, where he served an additional year. He is the oldest living Marine in Acadiana.

Bob co-founded the Lafayette Association for Retarded Citizens (LARC) and seven other Associations for Retarded Citizens across Louisiana. He served five terms as president of LARC and two terms as president of the State Association.He also served as the building chairman and founded the New Hope Center, Alleman Center and Acadian Village. All of these groups provide support, services and training to the developmentally disabled community.

Bob supports the Episcopal Church and served as building chairman when the church and school were both renovated in 1998. He also donated land to Family Missions Company to further their religious programs around the world.

He was a board member of 232-HELP, founded by his late wife, Jewell, for 45 years and has made substantial contributions to that organization since its inception. He and Jewell are also listed in the Top 10 individual donors to the Ochsner Foundation.

Bob was married to Jewell for 40 years.

Dr. Joe Wilson

Dr. Joe H. Wilson has been selected to receive the 2014 Leaders In Philanthropy Award for his contributions to the St. Landry Parish community. 

Dr. Wilson has owned a chiropractic clinic for 47 years in Opelousas. He served as president of the Chiropractic Association of Louisiana from 1995-97, and was named Chiropractor of the Year in 1998. He was also named Citizen of the Year in 2004 by the St. Landry Parish Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Wilson has hosted Helping Hands Day at his chiropractic office for over 20 years. One day each year, he trades chiropractic services for a donation to the local food banks, including ICONS Food Bank and the New Life Center Food Bank. He collects approximately 2,000 lbs. of food each year. In 2009, he expanded his program, Project Helping Hands, to become a state program. It is now a community service effort sponsored by the Chiropractic Association of Louisiana. He also participates in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library by hosting a similar event in which he dedicates fees collected to help fund the charity.

He has attended several mission trips to Mexico and Panama with his wife, Wendy Whitehurst, a massage therapist, along with other chiropractors, physicians and massage therapists. They travel to remote villages and stay with the indigenous people, learn about their culture and provide locals with healing services.

Dr. Wilson has been involved with the St. Landry-Evangeline United Way for 30 years, and has served three terms as the organization’s president and three terms as campaign chair. He serves as outsource doctor to Community Health Clinic, which was initiated by United Way for the area, and also for the Lighthouse Mission for Men.

Since settling in Opelousas almost 50 years ago, Dr. Wilson has given of his time, talent and treasure to numerous causes throughout the area such as buying books for local children; providing donations to the New Life Center, area shelters and missions; and supporting local arts and cultural programs.

Dr. Wilson and Wendy have a combined family with four children and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Virginia Olivier Yongue

Virginia Olivier Yongue has been selected to receive the 2014 Leaders In Philanthropy Award for her unwavering commitment to causes throughout St. Martin Parish.

An active member of St. Bernard Church, Virginia has served on the St. Bernard Church Council, the committee to reopen St. Bernard School, and was a lector and Eucharistic minister at the church for more than 40 years. She was also a charter member of Catholic Daughters on the Court of St. Paul.

Virginia has been a member of many local organizations, such as the Breaux Bridge City Council, Breaux Bridge Chamber of Commerce, Breaux Bridge Historical Society and the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra. She was a member of the Friends of the Humanities for more than 25 years. She was also a Patron for Scholastique de Pique Breaux Bridge Project Veterans Park in 1998.

Virginia served as publicity chair for the Crawfish Festival Association from the late 1960s to mid-1970s. She also served as publicity chair of the Breaux Bridge Bayou Parade for five years and as publicity chair for the 4th of July Celebration on the Bayou for three years.

Virginia Yongue was married to the late Dr. Ernest Yongue for 57 years and is the mother of 10 children, 12 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. She still volunteers and enjoys the companionship and spirituality of a Theresian group. 

Johnny and Mary Lou Conrad

Johnny and Mary Lou Conrad have been selected to receive the 2014 Leaders In Philanthropy Award for their many contributions to the St. Mary Parish community.

Johnny is the CEO of Conrad Industries, a shipbuilding and repair business with five shipyards in Louisiana and Texas. After attending LSU, he started his first business, Johnny’s Propeller Shop, serving the maritime industry in south Louisiana.

As his business grew, he began to look for ways to give back to his community. He has served as director on various Bank Boards such as St. Mary Bank, First National Bank of Lafayette and Capital One. He has also served as a board member of the Coast Guard Foundation, American Petroleum Institute, Knights of Columbus and as president of the Morgan City Petroleum Club. He is also a member of Legatus, a prestigious worldwide organization of Catholic CEOs promoting Christian values in business.

Johnny is an active member of the Tiger Athletic Foundation and recently made a donation to the LSU School of Business to create an entrepreneurial program designed for veterans re-entering civilian life. He also supports the Wounded Warriors Project in St. Mary Parish.

Mary was founder and CEO of Venture Transport. After selling their ownership, Mary Lou retired and now devotes her time to her family and to volunteer efforts in the community. She served as president of the St. Mary Arts and Humanities Council and was co-founder of Arts in Education for St. Mary Parish schools. Mary also served on the Acadian Arts Board and the Louisiana State Arts Board and currently serves on the board of the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center Foundation.

The Conrads believe the best way to invest in the community is to invest in its children. They have supported educational and youth programs for many years including a number of youth sports leagues. They give money to both private and public schools in St. Mary Parish and support organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House, United Cerebral Palsy, the Mayo Clinic, Special Olympics, Camp Dream Street and the Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders at Nicholls State University.

Johnny and Mary Lou are lifelong residents of the Morgan City area and have been married for 52 years. They have three sons, six granddaughters and two grandsons. Their sons, Dan, Glenn and Ken all participate in the Conrad Family Foundation along with Johnny’s father, Parker. Philanthropy is a family tradition, and all three generations of Conrads are active contributors for the betterment of the community.

Mary Ellen Sonnier

Mary Ellen McKay Sonnier has been selected to receive the 2014 Leaders In Philanthropy Award for the positive impact she has made in Vermilion Parish.

After working as a teacher for many years, and with the help of her son Chuck and her husband Charles, Mary Ellen turned a former automobile dealership in Downtown Abbeville into an event venue called Magdalen Place. She also operates a gift shop and museum known as "The Depot” from a restored 1894 railroad freight depot with two authentic railroad cabooses.

Magdalen Place is one of the primary ways in which Mary Ellen gives back to the community. She donates use of the facilities for fundraising evenots to local schools; nonprofit, civic and governmental organizations; and charitable groups. She also sponsors students to attend workshops with the Acadiana Symphony in Lafayette each year and allows schools to host recitals and concerts at Magdalen Place.

As an active member of the St. Mary Magdalen Church community, she was selected as one of the co-chairs of its Capital Campaign, an effort to raise $4 million for the renovation of the historic church. She gave of her time, talent and treasure, and achieved the campaign goals through fundraising efforts and personal contributions.

Mary Ellen has also served on the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce board and its executive committee, the Abbeville Main Street Board, and was selected in 2004 by the State of Louisiana Main Street Board as Volunteer of the Year. She serves on the Allumé Society Board, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to restore and revitalize downtown Abbeville, and is a board member of the Vermilion Arts Council and Museum Alliance. She is also a lifetime member of the Abbeville Historical Society.

Mary Ellen has been married to Charles for more than 50 years, and they have three children and seven grandchildren.

Stone Energy

Stone Energy Corporation is receiving the inaugural Leaders In Philanthropy Corporate Award for making an impact in Acadiana through philanthropy. For more than 20 years, Stone has proudly worked to help meet the world’s growing energy demand through exploration, development and production of hydrocarbons. The corporation values integrity, teamwork, excellence and the unique spirit of its culture.

Stone Energy believes that the logical and important next step to providing energy for society is to help build its community. Thus, Stone formally established a Corporate Giving Program in 1997 for both corporate donations and employee gift matching to support nonprofit organizations that work toward bettering the quality of life in the communities in which Stone Energy employees live and work.

Stone Energy and its employees support United Way of Acadiana in its efforts to create lasting change through early childhood development programs such as the Imagination Library and Headstart. These programs help prepare young children for school and set them up for success. They also support the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra’s Do-Re-ME! program, which applies the concept of arts integration to reinforce comprehension in reading, mathematics and history. Stone Energy also donated funds to United Way of Acadiana to purchase a multipurpose administrative building to accommodate nonprofit organizations serving the local community. Stone Energy is also a United Way Corporate Cornerstone Partner, and 83 of Stone Energy’s employees are United Way Leadership Givers.

Each October, Stone Energy orchestrates a gumbo cook-off to support United Way of Acadiana. The popular annual event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the United Way and has taken on festival-like proportions.

In addition to its efforts for the United Way, the company also supports education directly through the school system, adopting and re-landscaping schools such as Northside High, NP Moss and Lafayette Middle. This beautification of the schools gives the students and teachers pride, which leads to more engagement in the classrooms and ultimately better test scores and results.

Stone Energy Corporation actively supports the improvement of the general quality of life of those in Acadiana. The corporation starts at home with its philanthropic efforts, taking inspiration from Mother Theresa’s words: "Do not worry about numbers, help whoever you can, start with the person closest to you.”

Stone Energy Corporation (NYSE: SGY) is an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana since 1993. With additional offices in New Orleans, Houston and Morgantown, W. Va., Stone currently has over 400 employees. Stone is engaged in the acquisition, exploration and development of properties in the Deep Water Gulf of Mexico, Appalachia and the onshore and offshore Gulf Coast.

Stephen G. Post, PhD
Founding Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics
Stony Brook University School of Medicine

As author of the best-selling book, The Hidden Gifts of Helping as well as Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving, Dr. Stephen Post is a leading expert on the scientific relationship between health and altruism. Post has been quoted in more than 3,000 national and international media outlets and has appeared on many national television programs. He has written eight scholarly books on generosity and compassionate care and is the editor of nine others. Post has addressed the U.S. Congress on volunteerism and public health, and received the Congressional Certificate of Special Recognition for Outstanding Achievement.

Research has consistently found that people who are altruistic – giving of themselves, their time and their resources – are generally happier, healthier and even live longer. Post will be speaking about the scientific link between generosity and happiness, and how everyone can live a fuller, happier life by embodying a philanthropic spirit. As Post has said, "contributing to the lives of others is like a one-a-day vitamin for the soul.”



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