Volunteer Ascension honors ‘heroes’

Staff reports
Volunteer Ascension marked National Volunteer Week in Ascension Parish by hosting its 11th Annual Volunteer of the Year Awards Fundraiser April 21 at the Holiday Inn in Gonzales. Shown are the nominees attending this year’s event.

Volunteer Ascension celebrated National Volunteer Week in Ascension Parish hosting their 11th Annual Volunteer of the Year Awards Fundraiser “Evening of Comedy” April 21 at the Holiday Inn in Gonzales.

Cajun Comedian Kent Gonsoulin entertained guests, as they enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and nominees were presented in five categories.

Executive Director Audrey Boudreaux said, “Excitement was in the air all night as guests wondered who would take home the 1st Inaugural LIFETIME “World of Difference” Volunteer Award. Ninety-year-old Ronie Tureau took the honors, after guests listened to brief summaries of all the nominees’ years of volunteer service to the community. She was overwhelmed and humbled, and the audience gave her a standing ovation on her many great accomplishments since beginning her volunteer life.

“You just can’t sit around, you have to keep moving,” Tureau said.

Along with the certificate of recognition and pin from Volunteer Ascension, nominees and guests were given a commemorative program showcasing their volunteer services. Master of Ceremonies Martin McConnell recognized each nominee during the program, with a short summary of their many volunteer efforts, and in each category, announced the winners.

“Volunteers are the unsung heroes of the community. They spend countless hours serving the needs of the community and expect nothing in return. The Volunteer of the Year Awards is an exciting event and an opportunity for the community to thank these individuals and recognize them for their service. The new Lifetime Award adds to this excitement by honoring those individuals that have a lifetime of service to the community,” said Volunteer Ascension’s Board of Directors President Randall LeJeune.

“What a night!” said  Boudreaux. “I sincerely appreciate the support from family members, friends and leaders throughout the parish who came to honor this worthy group, and especially our Corporate Sponsors who insured our fundraising event was once again a major success: Atmos Energy Corporation, BancorpSouth Bank, Pujol & Pryor-Attorneys at Law, and St. Elizabeth Hospital.”

This year’s winners included:

• The Youth Volunteer of the Year, Matthew Vidrine, who has been volunteering seven years, 30-40 hours per month reaching out to the young, old and needy in his community.

• Education/Community Group Volunteer of the Year, Ascension Jaguars AAU Coaches 14U and East Ascension Sportsman’s League; Ascension Jaguars Coaches began three years ago, volunteering 100-150 hours with at-risk youth in a sports and academics-first program. The East Ascension Sportsman’s League has been in existence 57 years and members volunteer an average of 120 hours per month to many projects on conservation, and fishing and hunting safety, for future generations.

• Education/Youth Services Volunteer of the Year, Thad Bellow, who has volunteered the past 18 years 500 hours per year, first as a firefighter, then teaching gun and shooting fundamentals, mostly to youth.

• Community Volunteer of the Year, Pierre Zeringue, who has spent the last 25 years volunteering 20 or more hours per month to cooking meals for fundraisers, and lending his carpentry skills to help people rebound from challenging situations.

• The 2009 LIFETIME “World of Difference” Volunteer, Ronie Tureau, who started volunteering at the age of 10, and still volunteers many hours per month today in service to her community.

Other nominees in the categories were: Youth-Jeff Boudreaux, Nathaniel Hearn; Education/Community Services Group-Community Led Action Within School (CLAWS), Hope Youth Development; Education and Youth Services-Betsey Baldwin, Stephanie Conerly, Allegra Dennis, LaVerne Guidry, Nancy Lambert, Christy Thomas, Tracie Waguespack; Community Services-Delores Acosta, John Calhoun, Paulette Rosamond; LIFETIME–Bobbie Blanchard, Paulette Rosamond, Pierre Zeringue.

 “Volunteers spend many hours away from their families each year. This recognition is a small way of showing how much we appreciate the difference volunteers make in our community,” Boudreaux said. According to Boudreaux, the judges again had a difficult time judging all the worthy nominees this year, and in some cases only one point separated them.

Volunteer Ascension, where Volunteers are Changing Lives, is a local not-for-profit service organization that strives to positively impact the needs of Ascension Parish by promoting and developing volunteerism.

The organization touches an estimated 14,700 individuals in our community through its volunteer based programs such as Community Services, ConnecTeens, Make A Difference Day, School Tools and School Uniforms.

Patron Level funders are Parish of Ascension, Atmos Energy Corporation, BASF Corporation, EATEL and Whitney National Bank. Volunteer Ascension is a member of the Points of Light Institute/Hands on Network and receives funding from the community and local private sector.

LIFETIME Volunteer Ronie Tureau poses with three of her sons and Volunteer Ascension’s Board of Directors President. Shown from left are Board President Randall LeJeune, Norris, Ronie, Ralph and Joey Tureau.