Volunteers of America North Louisiana honors organizations and businesses at annual lunch

Earlier this week, Volunteers of America North Louisiana honored special volunteers in north Louisiana for their selfless service during the annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon.

Approximately 140 people gathered for the celebration at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport on Tuesday, March 13.

“In each success story, there is an underlying theme. The secret to our success… is love.” said President and CEO Chuck Meehan. “Every moment spent with a client, every decision made as they move forward towards independence and every positive step taken. We – all of us in this room – are there compassionately and lovingly supporting every person who finds their way to Volunteers of America.”

Last year, over 1,100 volunteers donated more than 6,600 hours to the organization.

Champion of Dignity Award: Sassy Sistas United Social Club

The Champion for Dignity award recognizes those volunteers who work with some of our neediest populations. Sassy Sistas United Social Club is a fun, energetic group of individuals who have served our Veterans for 4 years now. Once a quarter, these women brighten up our kitchen and dining room at the Veterans Transitional Living Facility by preparing, cooking and serving delicious home cooked meals to our Veteran residents. Yet, what really makes this group of women special is their joyful hearts and compassion for serving others.

Ellen Brown Spirit of Volunteerism Award: Kendra Meiki

This award honors the first director of the Highland Center, and continues to honor those who invest in the Highland Community.  This year’s recipient, Kendra Meiki, has touched the lives of approximately 150 Caddo parish LightHouse children over the past six years. Thanks to Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet’s support and efforts, our LightHouse kids participate in an opportunity of a lifetime – Chance to Dance. Kendra Meiki, owner and director of Shreveport Dance Academy, leads the charge. She works with our LightHouse kids over a six-month period teaching them basic ballet moves. She also teaches students life beyond the curtain, like how to work back stage and how young professionals need to act during a performance.

Rachel Sparks Memorial Award: Wendall Glass and University Church of Christ

Named for Volunteers of America’s longtime executive director, this award honors those who continue her legacy of leadership and excellence. This year’s honoree is a group of volunteers from a local community church committed to love God and to love others. Each month, dedicated individuals from University Church of Christ spend a Sunday afternoon volunteering their time at our Veterans Transitional Living Facility – preparing, cooking and serving a meal to over 40 hungry residents. Wendall Glass spoke at the event, “We get far back in return than what we give.”

Altrusa Award: Blanchard, Walker, O’Quin & Roberts Law Firm

The Altrusa award recognizes an individual or group that has given of themselves to bring life to the community while seeking nothing in return. This year’s recipient, the law firm of Blanchard, Walker, O’Quin and Roberts, has a very long history of supporting Volunteers of America and those we serve. Its employees have served on our Board of Directors, board committees, our Visionaries group for young people and in many other important capacities.  The firm has been a leader for years in our community – setting a philanthropic example for all to follow. They do so much throughout the year, but their volunteer service to our organization shines especially bright during the holiday season as they ensure individuals with chronic mental illness and children in poverty feel loved and special.

Beacon of Hope Award: Sondra Dixon

This year, the LightHouse program celebrates 29 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. Sondra Dixon spent 25 years at the LightHouse with a title of administrative assistant. Another of her contributions continuing today is serving on our LightHouse scholarship committee – which she continues to do as a volunteer. Her co-workers often describe her as “the heart of the LightHouse”.  LightHouse graduate, Cortez Davis, shared, “I never had the opportunity to meet Ghandi, Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr. But I did get to become friends with Ms. Dixon. Whenever I lose faith in humanity, I get an email from Ms. Dixon checking in on me because it’s been a while. That’s God letting me know that love, happiness and compassion are still there. I don’t think I’ve ever met a sweeter or nicer person. I’m sure she will be crying today, but she will also know how much she is loved and respected.”

Humanitarian Award: First United Methodist Church of Shreveport Local Missions

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, First United Methodist Church of Shreveport has been influential in helping our community understand that relationships are the key to serving, and that local missions are essential to building solid relationships.  For over 50 years, First United Methodist Church of Shreveport has partnered with Volunteers of America North Louisiana. And today, church members primarily focus on our programs serving children and families including the LightHouse and Communities In Schools, in addition to working with our developmentally disabled residents at our Greenwood Lodge apartments.