LAKE CHARLES – Two individuals were honored at the 2017 Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana Jazz Brunch for their generous contributions of self and resources to aid those most in need of assistance in Southwest Louisiana.
This year’s winner of the Caritas Award, given to someone in the community who exemplifies a life of selfless giving, was Esther Vincent while the Saint Peter Claver Award was presented to Reggy Saxon. This award is given to someone in the community who demonstrates particular concern for those in need.
Vincent has been a life-long advocate for the community of Southwest Louisiana, beginning her career as a teacher then as a counselor and a principal. Throughout her career in the public school system her motto was “Children are our first priority” and she was dedicated to the education and the well-being of her students.
Following retirement from the public school system after more than 30 years, she began a second career as Director of Community Development and Services with the City of Lake Charles and in her current position oversees a wide range of programs. She collaborates with other community organizations on many issues such as the needs of children in foster care, young adults aging out of foster care, assisting persons who have been released from prison to help them re-enter the community, affordable housing, and homeless prevention issues.
Then-Mayor Randy Roach hired her to direct the department due to her leadership skills, organizational skills, honesty, and the heart and compassion she has for everyone in our community. She has been a tireless advocate for homeless persons and low income families in our community when it comes to providing affordable quality housing. She has the strength, courage, and faith to deal with all types of problems and situations while always being just and compassionate to the public that she serves.
A life-long member of Reeves Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and currently Treasurer and Choir Director, her faith has given her the insight, desire, and ability to help the community and families in our neighborhoods. As a leader, Esther Vincent always advocates collaboration, creativity, hard work, and vision in order to solve our problems and make Southwest Louisiana a great place for all who live here.
Saxon worked 19 years as a machinist before transitioning to the engineering fi eld in 1988. In 1995, Saxon with two others founded ReCon Management Services, Inc., focusing on theproper placement of professional personnel to support the project needs of the local industries.
Since his retirement from the business, his life is devoted to service work and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ our has been an active supporter of the pro-life movement and board member and offi cer of New Life Counseling. He is a
member of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team and he is a Deacon and active member of Trinity Baptist Church. He travels around the United States and Canada to assist communities ravaged by disasters and to help assist new churches with building projects.
With the Sabine River flooding of 2016, Saxon has worked tirelessly with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team to oversee the relief efforts in Vinton, Starks, and surrounding areas. He has also assisted with the flooding in Baton Rouge, Welsh, and Jennings.
He is currently with Catholic Charities as the Volunteer Project Manager for Disaster Restoration Program. He has worked diligently to help restore the homes and spirits of the families that were devastated by the flooding.
Sr. Mary Vianney Walsh, RSM, director of Catholic Charities, presented her annual report. Catholic Charities Services and Assistance provided in 2016 included: Rent/Mortgage Assistance/Homelessness Prevention Program $144,143;
Utility Assistance $38,974; Funeral Assistance $8,200; “Beat the Heat” A/C Program $21,620; Prescription Assistance $11,021; Adopt a Senior/Headstart Child Christmas Project $18,000; Transportation Assistance $2,329; Employment/ID
Assistance $5,955; Food Assistance $224,635; and the Debbie Warshaw Fund Assistance $2,530. More than 3,484 persons were assisted and a total of $477,407 was given in assistance. Disaster Assistance was given for those in need during and after the March and August 2016 fl oods. An estimated 3600 persons were assisted and a total of $300,000 has been given in assistance. Catholic Charities continues to help the victims of the flooding to recover through its Long Term Disaster Recovery Program.
Catholic Charities board leadership includes Stephanie Rodrigue, chair; Anthony Bartie, vice chair; Hahn Vu, secretary; Deacon Glen Bertrand, Larry DeRoussel, Bianca Gonzales, Cindy McGee, and Rev. Msgr. James Gaddy. Bishop Glen
John Provost and Sr. Mary Vianney serve as ex-offi cio members of the board. Catholic Charities staff includes Sr. Mary Vianney, director; Jessica Watson, associate/assistant director; Shirley Walker,
caseworker; and Gloria Hypolite, administrative assistant.