November 2016, Publisher's Letter

November Publisher’s Letter

How to live a “thank you” life! 

bethWith Thanksgiving upon us, gratitude is in season. Being thankful for family, friends, churches, pastors, jobs, and certainly for God’s place in our lives, is a given. With food covering tables as smells from the oven fill the rooms of our homes, we will gather with those closest to us and share meaningful moments with those we love.

Yet, God’s people are called to be thankful in all circumstances. We are to live a “thank you” life. This requires a change of mindset, often daily. One way to adopt a thank-you mindset is to recall just what Jesus did on the Cross.

Romans 4:7 – it’s almost too good to be true! “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” Shall we read that again? I don’t know about you, but that Scripture is enough to remind me I have much to be happy about. Once we fully grasp this powerful truth, it’s enough to rock our world, and cause us to lose sight of worldly distractions. We who have accepted Christ are a forgiven people. There’s no sin left to feel guilty about – not one too huge that He left it behind for you to belabor in regret.

Our city has been through so much, as has our nation. Battles rage over countless issues. Our political environment has become hateful. While elections are important and government a necessity, our job is critical. Keep pressing forward in faith, running the race set out before us.

Hebrews 12:1-2 is our reminder: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith.”

What hinders you? What sin entangles you? Giving yourself freedom to answer that question could prove monumental. Get real with God and get free from that which binds. We are ineffective if held in captivity to sin. It’s why Christ died for you and for me. Wresting with our sin is like saying what Jesus did is not enough. It was. It is.

live-a-thankful-lifeLiving a “thank you” life means meditating on what He did for us. Then, living like we believe we are God’s children – heirs to His kingdom. We are champions of hope! We are in the world, but not of the world. We are ambassadors of Christ himself – a living testimony to what He has done in our lives – offering hope to those in need of a savior.

How do you live a “thank you” life? You don’t go a day without remembering what has been done for you. It was personal. It’s our ticket to freedom and gives our life meaning and purpose, offering a refreshing lens to help us get up each day and face the world.

We are God’s children – fully free and forgiven by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – put here in this world and on this earth to be His light in this otherwise dark world. Go forth and shine!

For this reason, we can truly be thankful! Happy Thanksgiving!

November 2016, Witness at Work

There is A Reason to Smile

Mission Trip to Costa Rica

by Sharon Furrate Bailey

img_0584Dr. Farrell Frugé Jr., has been serving the Baton Rouge community as a dentist for 30 years. Farrell met his wife, Karen (a dental hygienist), in 1986 when he was in his 4th year of dentistry school at the LSU School of Dentistry in New Orleans. They are knit together by their faith and family which includes three children – Trey, Erica and Camille.

Recently, he decided to use his expertise in dentistry to help those in dire need by taking a mission trip to Costa Rica. Trey wants to become a dentist, so when Farrell heard about this mission opportunity, he thought it would be a great trip to take and bring his son along on. Dr. Frugé’s wife and daughters also wanted to attend, so the mission trip quickly became a family affair. During their time there, the discoveries they made were ones that surely helped their faith grow even stronger.

So many people in Costa Rica are unaware of the importance of dental care, and Dr. Frugé and his family quickly recognized the great need present. The Frugés travelled to Costa Rica on May 26th and stayed through June 2nd. Farrell and Karen felt that this experience would be life-changing as they exposed their children to the needs in a country where dental care is not as accessible as it is in America. Dental care is not affordable for the average resident, so this mission trip was one in which certain lives were truly touched by receiving proper dental care.

Karen and Camille shared how a young boy who needed serious dental treatment left a real impact on their lives. They were both shocked at what they witnessed in this 2-year-old boy’s mouth, but it also allowed them to educate his parents and other parents on how to properly care for a young child’s teeth. The family was concerned about his discolored teeth and the fact his teeth were decaying at such a young age. The dental team met with the family and uncovered the reason for the decay – the parents were giving their baby a bottle of milk or juice at bedtime in his crib.

img_0617This gave Farrell the opportunity to share that though it may seem like the right thing to do for the child at bedtime, it was actually not the best thing for the child’s teeth because the sugars in the milk or juice pooled in the child’s mouth at night resulting in cavities. Farrell and Karen thought that other parents might be doing the same thing, so they encouraged the pastor of the local church to make an announcement that would help educate parents on the high risk of tooth decay from putting children to bed with any such liquid.

The Frugé family truly grew in their faith by serving those less fortunate, and at the same time they felt love from those they served. During the mission trip, Farrell and his family served the parishioners at the United Methodist Church in La Carpio along with pastor James and his family. Additionally, they served the parishioners at the Platanares Church in Moravia along with pastor Christian and his family. Though the language barrier was challenging at times, it did not take them long to learn a few Spanish words to make their dental treatment a success. In both of the communities they visited, the pastors’ wives cooked and served lunch to the Frugés. “We were so thankful and appreciative of the meals they served our family,” says Farrell. “We knew that they were taking care of us, just as much as we had gone to take care of the families that came to seek dental treatment.”

img_0614As a strong Catholic family, the Frugés have always believed in giving back. Every Sunday they attend mass at St. Thomas More. They have always been active in their home church and Farrell and Karen have led by example to their children in terms of community service and the importance of being connected to others that are less fortunate right here in Baton Rouge. The Frugés cook and serve meals every 3rd Tuesday of the month to the men at St. Vincent de Paul. In addition, each member of the Frugé family has been active in some way at their home church.
Trey and Erica were altar servers from 5th to 12th grade. Their youngest daughter, Camille, continues to altar serve and will be confirmed at St. Thomas More on October 19th. Karen has served as a vacation Bible school teacher and Come, Lord Jesus! leader. Farrell was chairman at our St. Thomas More parish festival. In addition to their church involvement, it is very important to them that they spend time with their extended families. On Sundays, the Frugé family takes up two rows of pews at church including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sunday has always been a special day for the Frugé kids because they get to see other family members and hear God’s word.

img_0574Their bonds with other St. Thomas More families are tight as well. Farrell and Karen believe that their children’s desire to serve began at St. Thomas More School and grew even stronger at St. Thomas More Church. “We have taught our children that it is important to not only ‘give back,’ but ‘to pay forward’ — that is to give to others before there is a need,” says Farrell.

1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. The Frugé family understands what this means and probably even more so after they returned home from serving in Costa Rica — one’s gifts are to be of service to others.

BRCLM Lagniappe, November 2016

Reach Out World Wide Brings International Goodwill to Flood Victims



BRCLM Lagniappe, November 2016

Reminisce About the Days of OLOL

by Taylor Frey

olol-luncheon-4541Sometimes the smell of coffee brings Our Lady of the Lake alumnus, Ellen Campbell, class of 1966, back to the days of nursing school. “We had the best dorm situation. We had big old rooms; they were old fashion in a way, but we just had fun,” she said. “We lived so close to the old Community Coffee plant that every morning when they were burning the coffee beans, we could smell the coffee roasting.”

She, along with her two nursing school classmates Denise Brown, olol-luncheon-4532class of 1964, and Katherine Denham, class of 1966, reunited at the 9th Annual Our Lady of the Lake luncheon at L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge. There, they reminisced about their nursing school days. “These people, (referring to Denham and Campbell) were behind me; I was a senior,” Brown said. “It was their first time living away from home, and some people were very homesick. I love people, so I used to go see about them.” Evidence of a true nurse’s heart — but a good soul without a good skill is not a good nurse at all.

Brown says the education she received at Our Lady of the Lake is what made her into the nurse she was. “We had a reputation,” she proudly said. “The whole state of Louisiana and Texas knew we were the best nurses ever to come out of nursing school.” Her comrades nodded their heads in agreement. Denham enthusiastically proclaimed that it was because of the hands-on clinical experience they received. “We gave each other shots to practice! It was not just on an orange!” Denham said. They went even deeper into their memories together, recalling one time when a classmate named Lucy swallowed a Levin tube – all three of them laughed at the thought.

olol-luncheon-4536When asked if they enjoyed their career after graduation, Brown became very serious. “Let me tell you something,” she said. “When we nursed, that was the best kind of nurses you had. We touched the patients. We worked in the best medicine they had.” Brown, Denham and Campbell all agree — Our Lady of the Lake nursing school was the best choice to become the kind of nurse they each wanted to be.

The Our Lady of the Lake luncheon is an annual event to raise scholarship support for students attending Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University, formally known as Our Lady of the Lake College. “We love to keep them (alumni) engaged, we love to see them again, we love to tell them what we have going on,” said Aimee Green, OLOL director of advancement services and donor relations. “We hope they had a positive experience when they went here, and we hope that continues for them.”

BRCLM Lagniappe, November 2016

When God Writes Our Story

by Minister Rolanda Gibson

rgibson-3“You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed,” Psalm 139:16 (NLT).  If God had given me a pen along with the liberty to write my own life’s story, many of the painful seasons of my life, and the experiences that developed me into the person I am today would have never been written.

But God, who is the ultimate story teller used my seasons of rejection, jealousy, confusion and brokeness to teach me about His acceptance, love, peace and restoration.  As a child growing up in South Louisiana, I had the befefit of being raised in a two parent home.  Home was my safe place.  I was loved and accepted unconditionally, and always encouraged to do my best.  Away from home, however, things were completely different.  My days were filled with rejection which lead to behavior problems in school and battles with anxiety, depression and insecurity.

When God writes your story, “no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper.”  When God writes your story, He will give you strength to defeat and overcome the path of destruction the enemy has planned for your life.

As I reflect over my own life, I can clearly see how the enemy didn’t waste any time planting seeds of rejection early on in my life.  As a child, I was overweight, wore glasses, was light skinned and had long hair-the perfect combination for being made fun of and rejected.  As a result, I became rebellious and disruptive in school which resulted in me failing twice and being expelled on two separate occasions.

All of these incidents were just a small part of the enemy’s plan to destroy my life.  I grew up in church, learned to have faith in God at an early age and was taught that nothing is too hard for God.  For years while in church and faithfully serving God, I silently struggled with anxiety and depression.

I felt alone and broken.  I believed that if I opened up about what I was experiencing, God would be disappointed in me and could no longer use me to minister to His people.  I also feared the criticism and judgement of people who would sarcastically suggest I struggled with these issues because I didn’t have enough faith.  So I suffered in silence.

I prayed to God many times for deliverance and strength to overcome anxiety and depression but God didn’t seeem interested in answering my prayers.  Ultimately, the Lord showed up in my life.  He delivered me and set me free from the strongholds of insecurity, rejection, anxiety, and depression.  He strengthened my faith and empowered me to overcome through His Word.

Because of God’s Grace, I did not become a dropout, juvenile delinquent or any other statistic the enemy had planned for my life.  In spite of my struggles in school, I graduated from high school on time, and went on to college and graduated with an advanced degree.

bookcovergib2When God writes our story, the pages that unfold can be used to encourage and minister to others.  I share with joy and gladness the work God has done in my life.  The Bible says in Romans 2:11 “For there is no respect of persons with God.”  Just as He delivered, strengthened and lifted me up, God is willing, ready and able to do the same for you.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can be scary because we want to be loved and accepted for who we are.  As members of God’s family, we have a responsibility to help one another grow in faith.  We can only do this by being honest and transparent with other believers.  In doing so, we will discover that we have similar struggles and battles.  More importantly, we can share how the grace and power of God is strong enough to take our darkest seasons and use them to bless the lives of others.  I invite you to read my story.  By faith in God, I believe it will change your life.

About Rolanda: Minister Rolanda Gibson is an educator, motivational speaker, mentor and author.  She is an ordained minister under the leadership of Bishop Charles E. Wallace of Oasis Christian Church. Minister Gibson has been serving in ministry for over 20 years and has been privileged to minister to numerous youths, young adults and adults respectively. In her first book “Now I Know,” Minister Gibson shares her story and uses practical points from the word of God to catapult the reader to the level of overcomer.  “Now I Know” is available online at or by contacting the author at (225) 372-8571 or

Millennial Life, November 2016

Embracing Your Authentic Self for the Holidays

by Trapper S. Kinchen

083We spend our late teens and most of our 20s trying to grow ourselves up. We develop fresh interests, build eclectic friendships, challenge ourselves with hard work, and press into a real relationship with God. The process is not an easy one, but with the passage of time, most of us wind up confident and self-sufficient. We become adults.

However, despite the hard-won battles to achieve independence, many of us emotionally revert when faced with our families. A single word or gesture from a relative can unexpectedly send us into a spiral of self-doubt and codependence. Because of this, many millennials, like generations before them, wrestle with conflicting feelings about “going home.”

The American holiday season officially commences on the last Thursday of November — when Thanksgiving and the promise of pie draws each of us back to our places of origin. During the holidays, we engage in familiar traditions and work hard to meet our parents’ expectations. That being said, no matter how hard we fight against it, every well-meant attempt to satisfy our relatives comes at the expense of our adulthood.

When we sacrifice our authentic selves in the name of family harmony, feelings of psychological regression and emotional depression typically follow. Research has proven many millennials dread interacting with their families around the holidays for fear of loosing their sense of self. Last December, Dr. Goal Auzeen Saedi contributed an article entitled “Ditching Family Drama This Holiday Season” to Psychology Today. It highlighted the anxieties and concerns millennials typically develop when faced with kin.

Dr. Saedi followed a group of college students preparing to leave school for Christmas break. The mental health facility at the university where she worked saw an uptick in the number of people seeking psychological guidance as the semester drew to a close. She wrote, “[They] shared concerns that their families would not accept the more authentic version of themselves. Others came from demanding and sometimes critical parents and were anxious about returning to such a home environment.”

Her research indicates that plenty of people worry about regressing under the strain of their family’s emotional demands. Of course, Dr. Saedi’s findings are not necessarily indicative of every person’s experience. Not everybody is hesitant to “go home.” Nevertheless, when looking at statistics on the mental health of most Millennials, it’s safe to assume that, for many of us, regressive family environments compound with our already highly stressful lives. cited a 2013 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association and Harris Interactive, which found that “Millennials are more stressed than any other current living generation.” As a group, we bear a great deal of worry. Although some is self-induced, much of our nervous tension is generated by outside influences.

Millennials are faced with an onslaught of psychological strain that makes the transition into adulthood especially challenging: starting careers in a sluggish and competitive job market, cultivating relationships in a progressively disconnected social environment, and understanding where we fit into the rapidly shrinking global landscape.

107As of 2015, millennials are America’s largest generational demographic — the first time in nearly half a century when baby boomers have been outnumbered. We represent a national cultural shift toward openness and inclusivity. It’s no secret most of us hold perspectives that veer, to some degree, away from our parents’ values.

Market analysts and other social theorists call our age group’s worldview the “millennial mindset.” We, in greater numbers than any previous generation, have postponed major life decisions like marriage and reproduction in favor of participating in new experiences and pursuing adventure. And, even those of us who are married and/or are parents, approach life differently than generations past.

The “millennial mindset” also affects how we as a demographic tackle major holidays like Thanksgiving. Millennials are progressively more interested in throwing creative and relaxed celebrations rather than sticking to traditional themes. This change has stemmed in part from our desire to be comfortable just as we are, and our need to avoid pretense.

As our views of the holidays shift, so do the ways in which we engage in them. There is a phenomenon called “Friendsgiving” that is rapidly gaining popularity among our demographic. It is an alternative to the customary Thanksgiving dinner.

Millennials are swiftly realizing celebrations do not need to be unnecessarily full of familial expectations and suppressed anxiety. As a result, many of us have begun opting out of the domestic rituals of our childhoods in favor of coming together with like-minded friends. We have begun to shed obligation in favor of embracing realness.

The general idea behind Friendsgiving is to have a genuine celebration without the dysfunctional tension, outdated conventions and emotional strain usually associated with a holiday at home. Friendsgiving is not defined by a set of prescribed rules, and that’s what makes it so appealing! Invite your friends, coworkers and family too, but do it on your own terms.

It is about abandoning guilt, shame and pressure, and coming together to rejoice with people you enjoy. When the pressure is off, it becomes a celebration based on giving thanks rather than meeting requirements. Chris Erskine of the Los Angeles Times says, “A Friendsgiving is Thanksgiving with no baggage, no family tensions. At Friendsgiving, no one sits in judgment.”

When I was in college, the Saturday before Thanksgiving break, I would host a lunch for all my friends. I spent 72 hours brining a turkey, baking bread from scratch, and learning that homemade cranberry sauce isn’t worth the effort. On the day of the lunch, we all sat around my apartment eating, discussing current events and being our authentic selves. It was a powerfully mature experience, mixed with feelings of pure delight.

067Like the ones my friends and I used to have, Friendsgivings are blank canvases of festivity, designed to bring people together. You can turn them into whatever you want: an informal potluck around the television, a full-on sit down affair with a turducken and cocktails, a vegan barbeque in the backyard, etc. The key is to enjoy yourself and savor the people who help to enrich your life.

Finding peace during the holidays does not necessarily mean isolating yourself from your family. It might be as simple as redirecting the family tradition. Invite your parents and siblings to your house, encourage them to mingle with your friends and assume the role of host.

Breaking free from rituals can be powerfully liberating. Whether its Friendsgiving, Friendsmas, or Friendependence Day, creating a comfortable and joyful atmosphere for a holiday party is always a good idea. Flexibility is the cornerstone of celebrating. It’s not about honoring a custom, but rather about taking pause to count life’s blessings.

It is vital to remember that God wants us to be whole, happy and healthy individuals — the Bible is full of references to this. We do a disservice to others and ourselves when we get bogged down in familial dysfunction and personal regression. The best part of growing up is getting to embrace bare bones self-authenticity and gathering together with the people you love. Happy Friendsgiving!

Learning For Life, November 2016

Parkview Baptist School Provides a Fresh Start for Students Affected by the Flood

by Courtney Haindel
Courtney Haindel
Courtney Haindel

On the morning of Friday, August 12, Parkview Baptist School made the decision to ‘postpone’ our Faculty InService planned for that day, assuming that we would start school as usual the following week. Obviously, South Louisiana and the families affected by the Great Flood would never be the same. At Parkview, we made the decision to open up an emergency enrollment scenario for families in the Greater Baton Rouge area who had either their house or school (or both) flooded out. Although the school was closed, the admissions office was open for business! Over the course of the next five days, we enrolled 70 students from Pre-K to twelfth grade from both Ascension and Livingston parishes.

uniform1Our library became a ‘free’ uniform store, stocked completely with uniform donations from our families. After we walked our new families through the admissions process, they were able to visit the uniform ‘store,’ where parent volunteers worked to get the right sizes, and student volunteers served as ‘fashion advisors’ to our new Eagles.

While this was going on, our cafeteria became volunteer central, where we had teams of parent, student, alumni and church volunteers organized in order to go out and help families clean out their houses. Almost two months into the ‘16-‘17 school year, only eleven of those students have returned to their schools in Livingston. The remaining students (including five seniors) have chosen to finish out their school year at Parkview Baptist because of the love and acceptance they have felt since they started.

uniform2Kallie, a senior from Denham Springs, said that she was really nervous when she started because it’s a totally different setting and she wasn’t sure what people would think of her. She said that everyone has been wonderful to her and her favorite thing about Parkview is that the school is centered around God and it makes her feel better that teachers open up classes with prayer.

Mya, another senior from Denham Springs, chose to stay at Parkview because as a Christian school, she said you can actually talk about what’s going in your life. Bible is her favorite subject because she can talk about things that are important to her. And it’s not just the seniors that have settled right in to the Parkview family.

Hayden, one of our new fourth graders, likes the food, auxiliary classes and likes singing and dancing in chapel. He says that chapel at Parkview is like Vacation Bible School!

Kole, in fifth grade, says he loves Parkview because he has made new friends and feels like he is being taught better than his old school. Whatever the reason God brought each of these students to Parkview, we are thrilled to have a part in their lives!

About Courtney: Courtney Haindel is the director of Marketing and Enrollment at Parkview Baptist School. She and her husband Ben, PBS High School Principal, attend Istrouma Baptist Church and have three daughters at Parkview. Courtney loves her job because she gets to tell the story of how God has blessed Parkview to each new family that comes on campus.

Healthy Life, November 2016

A Season for Giving

by Cameron Salter, YMCA Marketing Intern

11-29-2016As the end of the year approaches, so do most of America’s favorite holidays. This year when you are celebrating Thanksgiving and taking part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, do not forget to celebrate #GivingTuesday. This holiday has kicked off the charitable season since 2012 and has continued to grow since. #GivingTuesday takes place on November 29th, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized discount shopping days. The holiday celebrates giving back to your community through charitable donations and events. Individuals in the community are urged to give back to the cities that they love in whatever way they can.

The Baton Rouge community has seen great loss in 2016. As members of the community, there has never been a better time to give. There are many ways that you can participate in #GivingTuesday this year. Whether it is through service, fundraising or donations, there is always a place that will be grateful for your set of hands and expertise. Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter during this charitable season – with winter approaching, they need more help and supplies than any other time of the year.

If you would like to help through in-kind donations, consider donating old or new blankets so that the animals do not have to lie on the cold ground during the winter. Volunteering to play with and socialize the animals is also a way to help out that doesn’t even feeling like you are doing work. Who knows, you might even find your new furry best friend in the process. Similarly, St. Vincent de Paul of Baton Rouge is a great place to volunteer if you are looking to be hands on. They need everything from meal servers to envelope stuffers. With the holiday season approaching, they will also need volunteers to help sort donated Christmas decorations and clothing.

The YMCA of the Capital Area has many programs that allow you to volunteer and give back. The Angel Tree Giving Program allows community members to select a child’s name off of a YMCA branches’ Christmas tree, which tells you the child’s gender, age, and their requested gift. Another way to volunteer through the Y is by signing up to coach a sports team. Participating in a sport helps to create a sense of normalcy for children, especially those whose families were affected by the flooding.

Flood victims in the Baton Rouge community still need support. Many lost everything, and with the holiday season approaching they will not have decorations or resources to make Thanksgiving and Christmas what it typically is for their family. It is important that as a community we do not forget about the flood victims during this time of the year.

img_6346The C.B. Pennington Jr. YMCA was also heavily affected by the flood. The building took on three feet of water during the recent flooding that caused $2.5 million in damages to the 60,000 square foot facility. The water affected most of the equipment in the facility as well as the swimming pools. If you are interested in donating your time or resources to the Y during this charitable season, visit If you would like to join more than 700,000 people participating in #GivingTuesday, please consider the many ways you can give back to your local Baton Rouge community.

To learn more about #GivingTuesday, visit

Healthy Life, November 2016

Alzheimer’s Disease and Thanksgiving: What They Share

by Pennington Biomedical Research Center

alzheimers-awareness-avamere-1The Thanksgiving holiday and Alzheimer’s disease have something in common: they share the month of November. While this month brings a plethora of cuisine-filled celebrations with friends and family, it is also Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. The Thanksgiving holiday, which often brings in relatives from out of town, provides an opportunity for family members to spend quality time with loved ones and perhaps even be on the lookout for warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

An estimated 5 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s today. The disease is a common form of dementia in the elderly. Dementia can affect memory, language, personality and eventually bodily functions such as the ability to walk or eat. Alzheimer’s disease generally has a relatively slow onset with progressively worse symptoms as time goes on.

By the age of 65, one in nine people in Louisiana have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  By the age of 85, our state’s residents have a one in three chance of developing the disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month helps shed a light on the warning signs and symptoms of a disease that one of Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s world-class facilities is focused on. The Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention (IDRP) at Pennington Biomedical is working to prevent, make more manageable, and hopefully help cure Alzheimer’s disease.

Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP is home to one of the largest longitudinal brain aging studies in the United States, with nearly 1,600 participants enrolled from Louisiana. The study is making significant advances in helping to identify the triggers for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The IDRP has five clinical studies underway now that are testing medications used to treat the disease.  One of these groundbreaking studies is examining the effectiveness of a new drug in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The month of November is a significant time for many families who have relatives visiting from out of town. During the holidays they spend considerable time with these family members and they may notice small changes in their parents’ or grandparents’ behavior,” said Dr. Jeff Keller, director of Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP.

While the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease requires trained medical professionals, Dr. Keller recommends that relatives keep an eye open for these warning signs in loved ones:

  • Dropping of work or social activities due to potential changes in cognitive abilities.
  • Increased need for reminders, prompting or assistance to get through normal daily life.
  • Inability to balance a checkbook, or getting lost in familiar surroundings.
  • Struggling to find the right words or difficulty maintaining conversation.
  • Inability to remember new things.

Some of these signs can be considered part of the normal aging process, so it’s essential to speak with your doctor about any symptoms you may notice.

While the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease can be daunting, equipping yourself with accurate information and partnering with your doctor to develop a care plan to deal with possible changes can bring comfort to you and your loved ones. Keller recommends that people over the age of 60 get annual cognitive exams, which provide greater sensitivity in assessing changes in cognitive ability.

Pennington Biomedical offers free screenings for Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. Pennington Biomedical also welcomes participants and family members in the clinical trials in progress aimed at finding better treatments for the disease. Visit for more information about screenings. For more information about warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at

Family Life, November 2016

Having an Attitude of Gratitude After Loss

by Tara Dixon

Version 2Before sitting down to brainstorm the contents of this article, I first took a survey of those around me: “What word comes to mind when you think of the Great Flood of 2016?” Not far into my survey, I realized that the people of Baton Rouge had much more to teach me about gratitude than I could ever write. Research, years of schooling, and daily gratitude practice soon melted away as strength and resilience poured out of local citizens. I surveyed 105 locals, and the top answers were, Cajun Army, rebuild, home and community. Why wasn’t I hearing words such as tragedy, devastation and disaster? Although perplexed, I sat down at my computer with tears in my eyes and proudly began describing how gratitude has greatly impacted the city I call home.

It was once described to me that true gratitude is when you realize that what you already have is enough. Unfortunately, our materialistic world can make it difficult to achieve true gratitude. It’s easy to get wrapped up in worldly things and forget to be thankful for the basics – our life and each other. As time stopped on the days when we watched the water rise, Baton Rouge got back to the basics. Worldly possessions were quickly realized as replaceable, and our lives and communities became the priority. However, as the city rebuilds, new stressors and defeats can easily cloud our once overwhelming sense of gratitude. Although the benefits are endless, gratitude can leave an impact on those who have recently suffered trauma by lessening panic and increasing the ability to seek creative solutions.

But in the hustle and bustle of sheetrock, donations, new school schedules and contractors, how do we ensure that gratitude will continue to be a part of our daily lives? Keep in mind these few ideas:

  • GET SPECIFIC: Expand your gratitude by being thankful for the specifics in life. For example, instead of, “I’m thankful for my children,” you might say, “I’m thankful that Lily helped me by loading the dishwasher today.” If you are up for a challenge, identify the emotions involved as well. “I’m thankful for my husband for recognizing my stress and being thoughtful by bringing dessert home.”
  • MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIRWhy not decorate the center of your table with a gratitude jar? Throughout the year, add gratitude statements to the jar. On a special holiday, join as a family to count your blessings and read all the times you were grateful throughout the year.
  • MIND GAMES: Especially during times of stress, our mind has a habit of attaching to negative situations around us. Challenge yourself to reframe your negative thoughts in an effort to turn them into gratitude. For example, I sometimes find myself groaning, “There’s not enough time in the day!” By reframing my statement, I might say, “I accomplished my top three tasks today.” It is easy to reframe anything and positive statements do a world a good for self-esteem and self-worth!
  • COMPLIMENT COUNT: No one accepts a challenge like a Baton Rougian! Challenge yourself to a quota of compliments each day. As you sprinkle the world with compliments, you will also begin to notice the less obvious things you have taken for granted: the color of a co-worker’s office, the smile of your Starbuck barista, etc.

As our community continues to change and adapt to the aftermath of the flood, there will be plenty of examples of what is not going well. We have shown a nation and the world that our community thrives on faith and united support. Continue to be strong for Baton Rouge and cultivate what is going well. After all, look around, gratitude is all around us.

Family Life, November 2016

How to Be Great

by Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis
Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis, The Refresher
Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis, The Refresher

Being great begins with being grateful. The definition of grateful is to feel or show an appreciation of kindness and thankfulness. The most important gesture that you can do for someone is to be kind. Being kind is learned behavior. Sometimes people can only be what they were taught. However, the Bible teaches us to practice love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, which are fruits of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) Which fruit(s) are you practicing?

If you see a panhandler on the side of the street, are you kind to them?

Are you consistent in your giving? 

Are you practicing self-control with various situations? 

Do you pray, and then worry?

Do you genuinely love your neighbor?

Are you negative all the time?

Are you resting peacefully at night?

Are you joyous over small things?

Respectfully enter into the spiritual territory for five minutes a day by yourself or with a partner. By doing this, situations get easier to cope with.

Read this story:

My husband and I had an opportunity to attend a marriage conference a few months back. There we learned and were challenged to be a part of a social experiment called “The Partnered Prayer Challenge.” A partnered prayer challenged is when you commit to pray intimately with your partner for five minutes a day for 40 days. I was reluctant at first because I didn’t want my husband to know that I was talking about him to God like most wives do, I’m sure. We pray, but we pray separately.

So day one of our five-minute prayer was a little awkward to say the least, and by day two I was wondering if I was really showing up for the challenge with being truthful with him and God about how I actually pray and the issues I pray for. Why is that? We’re married for goodness sakes! By day five, I was fully committed to the challenge and reverted back to the scripture in Matthew 18:20 which says, “For where two or three gather together in my name, there am I with them. So why not make my request known unto God and to my husband even if my concerns are about him? We stayed committed to the challenge and finished. Not only did we finish, but our children finished as well. We are better communicators because of this and decided to keep it going. It’s become a way of life for our family now. The fruits of the spirt can be learned and practiced through this prayer challenge. He allowed our eyes to open one more day to be great and grateful.

This partner prayer challenge is a tool to enhance your marriage and other relationships. How many times have you sat back and said things that you wished for your spouse or loved one to do, or simply asked for them to understand you better? Well with this challenge, it gives your spouse and/or loved one a chance to see your intimate heart, your Godly heart. This is not just for marriages – this works for other relationships as well. So, let’s be great together!

Faith Life, November 2016

The Business of Building a Legacy

by Trapper S. Kinchen

img_6979We are all human beings. We study, sacrifice, save and build. Our lives are spent — like a drop of water hitting a stone — trying to make a mark. Each person’s time on Earth is momentary, a flash of light that sparks and fizzles in a cosmic instant. So why do we bother setting goals, and why do we work so feverishly to achieve them?

The simple answer is: we want to create a legacy – leave something behind that, after we are gone, will have a lasting impact. Yet it can be tremendously difficult to reconcile our faith with our instinctual drive to succeed. Often times, we hone our focus too tightly on our businesses, creativity, homes, etc., and lose sight of the Lord’s greater plan for our lives.

Seeing Faith Lived

Craig LeBlanc is a businessman extraordinaire – a capitalist focused on leaving a legacy. With a mind open to advice and a heart hungry for God, he has put his entrepreneurial spirit to work for others. His network of industries helps support not only his family, but also his church and community.

Now one of Baton Rouge’s most committed philanthropists, it was a lengthy process for LeBlanc to reconcile his passion for business with the Lord’s special calling on his life.

He was an unassuming and bashful boy who grew up in Port Allen, mostly keeping to himself. Despite his shyness, he developed a special bond with his priest, Monsignor Berggreen. The Monsignor became one of LeBlanc’s first life-long mentors and a good friend. Through that relationship, LeBlanc gained perspective on how faith and livelihood can work in conjunction.

“Monsignor Berggreen was a pillar in my life. I got to see his faith lived more than I ever could have understood it spoken,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc graduated from Catholic High a tremendously introverted young man. He received an athletic scholarship to Louisiana Tech but was quickly recruited to the University of Kentucky. There, he began to shed his timidity and became involved with a rowdy crowd. “Once I went to college, there was a lot more sex, drugs and partying.”

At UK, he fell into a cycle of getting drunk, hooking up, repenting and regretting. And his slapdash behavior went beyond overindulging in sex and alcohol. “I encountered recreational drugs at the University of Kentucky, and I brought that back home with me for about a year,” LeBlanc said.

Eventually, LeBlanc’s drug use humbled him. It happened abruptly. “A turning point in my life was when I went with a friend to a rave in New Orleans. That’s where I got arrested,” he said.

The arrest proved providential. It forced him to confront the trajectory of his life and after some swift consideration, alter it. “Fortunately, they caught me, because I probably would have been pretty good at [selling drugs],” he said.

Jesus, the keystone of his spiritual foundation, reminded LeBlanc throughout the tumult of his arrest that he was loved, and his life had purpose. “I felt that Christ was there with me in the gutter. He wasn’t just in church. I allowed him to come into that part of my life,” LeBlanc said.

After a period of time spent living in humility and readjusting his goals, LeBlanc was ready to undertake a new challenge. “I wanted to use my talents for something bigger,” he said.

Missionary to Young Entrepreneurs

img_6981-1Out of LeBlanc’s personal struggles came the concept for his ministry – Legacy Formation International. Its mission is to mentor young entrepreneurs through a combination of Christian principles and business insight. Legacy was formed because LeBlanc wanted to share with the next generation some of the positive mentorship he experienced as a young businessman.

“Legacy was born out of my relationships with Monsignor Berggreen and Mr. Brian Harris. Those men were the two pillars Legacy was formed on,” he said. “One was about spiritual formation and the older generation handing down spiritual wisdom. The other was about entrepreneurial development and the wisdom Mr. Harris handed down to me.”

Success in business, or anything else for that matter, is only truly gratifying when it serves the greater good, and sharing wisdom is a great place to start. As LeBlanc’s businesses grew, he saw an opportunity to form a network of Christian entrepreneurs who were working hard to leave a legacy of philanthropy, encouragement and integrity. “It’s about helping young entrepreneurs become legacy-minded and feel this responsibility to pass it on to a new generation,” he said.

Legacy is, at its core, about mentorship. LeBlanc aims to help entrepreneurs in their 20s avoid some of the free market landmines that affected him when he was starting out. Thereby, the people he mentors are able to establish themselves a little more quickly than they would if left unguided. It is about one generation sharing experiences, lessons and challenges with another.

It’s a Struggle

Success is measured by a person’s capacity to give back rather than his ability to accumulate assets. One does not have to be a millionaire or a highly skilled craftsman to share wisdom. “I believe every person is a mentor already. We are all called to pass down the wisdom we’ve been given,” LeBlanc said.

Mentorship, in part, is about meeting a person where he is and helping him grow through love, reproach and encouragement. “You can’t stop people from being human, you just have to be there for them,” LeBlanc said.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a businessman is learning how to balance work and family. That is the paramount lesson LeBlanc teaches the young entrepreneurs with whom he works. Reconciling one’s personal life with the demands of building a business can be crippling.

“For those called to entrepreneurship, it is a struggle,” he explained. “You have to figure out how to juggle family, faith and a marriage in the same space as a business that will consume you if you aren’t careful.”

He learned how to balance his faith, home life and businesses through a combination of observation and practice. “Mr. Harris was a mentor for me in that capacity. He was the father of four daughters, he was a great husband, and he built a $400 million business,” LeBlanc said.

With 11 children, a busy wife, countless investments needing attention, mentoring through Legacy and maintaining a relationship with Christ, LeBlanc understands the nuances of juggling his personal and professional lives. However, faith and family always come before the rest.

Acknowledging Wisdom

fullsizerender-2The absolute key to success is being willing to take advice. That being said, one has the responsibility to discern good counsel from a misguided opinion. “It takes life experience before we can acknowledge wisdom outside our own heads,” he said.

LeBlanc’s suggestion for anyone looking to excel in business and beyond is, “just start, that’s it. The absolute worst thing you can do is be indecisive and dream about all the benefits of success without ever digging in and doing it.”

Too frequently, we hold ourselves back. Failure comes when we stall. “In business, it’s always your own laziness, apathy or indifference that takes you down,” LeBlanc said.

Once we decide to get started, we must remember the importance of continual growth. Complacency is fatal, both personally and professionally. “Always increase your skill set, especially being able to network,” he advised.

Sometimes we put limits on ourselves based on past experiences. We cultivate our insecurities when we refuse to grow. LeBlanc went from being an incredibly reserved boy to an energetic and gregarious man. “Don’t let your being shy as a child predetermine your skill set,” he said.

Faith and an honest relationship with Christ are the two most effective implements at our disposal. “Christ has always been a helper for me. I never put him in a box,” he said. “When you can do that, your faith becomes a tool to help you get to the next step.” Jesus is always available to us; all we need to do is call on Him.

LeBlanc’s most significant bit of insight is to “start each day by counting your blessings.” If one is thankful for what one has, one can honestly appreciate each fresh achievement in business and in life. With gratitude comes generosity, and generosity leads to a legacy.

Hard work, determination and ambition are virtues when divinely inspired. If we rely on our own wisdom and disregard the advice and mentorship God has placed in our lives, hard work turns into drudgery, determination becomes obsession, and ambition grows into greed.

When we work with little in mind beyond amassing wealth, we are like the raindrop thudding against a rock – our impact will be minimal. It is only by being legacy-minded –giving back and sharing with a new generation – that our single drop becomes a mighty river, carving a permanent path as it rushes forward, and that path will positively alter the landscape for generations to come.

Faith Life, November 2016

Christian Dance Instructor Raises the ‘Barre’

by Lisa Tramontana

dance-3-jpgA children’s dance recital should be an event the whole family can enjoy. But if you’ve attended one in recent years, you might have experienced some uncomfortable moments. Little girls dressed inappropriately and dancing suggestively has become the norm at many dance studios.

Whitney Jones-Holland wanted to raise the “barre,” so to speak. An education major with a degree from Southern University, she had grown up dancing in her hometown of Houston, Texas, and dreamed of opening her own studio, but it would have to be one that adhered to high standards and Christian values.

“I wanted my students to be able to learn to dance with joy, love and excitement, but without compromising their values,” she said. “I wanted to be able to teach values that would uplift and inspire them.”

She didn’t know if anyone would be interested, but she began to pray about it, and the more she prayed, the more it seemed possible. During a road trip to Tennessee, the Lanier Elementary teacher got the proverbial “sign from God” — literally.

dance1-jpg“I was thinking about my dance idea, and I saw this huge billboard for some kind of guidance counseling. And then the word ‘guidance’ struck me, and I thought, ‘I never knew DANCE was in the word guidance. Then I thought maybe this was divine intervention. And suddenly I knew I would open a studio and I knew what its name would be … Divine GuiDANCE.

Today, Divine Guidance has more than 60 students enrolled in tap, jazz, ballet and creative movement classes. Dancers range from age 2 to adult, and participate in an annual recital each year, held at Faith, Hope & Love Worship Center, and at LSU.

dance2-jpg“The music, movements and costumes are not suggestive in any way, and don’t send out negative messages,” Jones-Holland said. “We pray at the beginning and end of every class. There is no yelling or fussing or pressure. We’re a team and we treat each other with kindness and respect at all times. Our instructors encourage students to believe in themselves in their daily lives, at home, at school, and in their communities. We are teaching them dance skills, but we are also sharing our faith, showing them love, and helping them deal with life’s challenges.”

Jones-Holland has a big heart, and a year ago, a new idea started weighing heavily on her. She would offer her dance classes free for an entire year. With 50 students, the idea could have had disastrous financial consequences, but just the opposite happened. “This was all faith,” she said. “My husband (Hansoni) supported it, everyone pulled together, parents donated what they could afford, and it was a huge success.”

The free training allowed many young girls to discover a love of dance in a supportive and caring environment. Many of them would not have been able to afford it otherwise.

Divine Guidance also enrolled students in the studio’s first dance, academic and enrichment camp, which will hopefully become an annual project serving about 30 students each year. Holiday camps are held throughout the year and in the summer.

dance-4-jpgJones-Holland, who is also mother to 4-year-old Holli, says her parents were instrumental in forming her faith life, and she is grateful to them for a gift she now passes on to other young girls. The parents of her students are grateful as well.

“There’s warmth and love in the way she teaches,” says Tonya Johnese, whose daughter Hannah studies with Holland. “Whitney is a great role model.”

Camilla Jones agrees. Her daughter, Ca’Myra, has been dancing with Holland since the age of two. “Everything about her studio is wholesome and for a parent that’s very important,” she said.

Divine Guidance Studio is located at 4523 North Blvd. For more information, call (225) 330-1648.

Faith Life, November 2016

The Cajun Navy

A personal calling to do the right thing. 

by Lisa Tramontana

cajun-navy-10It’s been more than two months since the Great Flood of 2016 ravaged South Louisiana, and time seemed to stand still. For thousands of stranded residents, salvation came not from law enforcement or first responders, but from regular citizens calling themselves the Cajun Navy.

For many flood victims, they seemed to appear out of nowhere — coming into view down a flooded highway, or rounding a corner in a water-filled neighborhood. They came on fishing boats, motorboats, canoes, aluminum jon boats — on anything that would float. They came in the clear blue dawn and in the darkening dusk. They came in the bright sunshine all day long. They were young, old, black, white, male and female. Many of the rescued say they will never forget the faces of their rescuers even though many of their names have been lost or were never known at all.

No matter. The Cajun Navy captains (anyone with a boat and a desire to help) didn’t want recognition. They simply wanted to do the right thing.

cajun-navy-2For Chris King of Prairieville, that meant helping a fellow employee who lived in Denham Springs and was stranded in her home with another family. The group numbered six adults, two toddlers, two elderly family members, and several dogs. Although she had called for help several times, no one had yet arrived. So King contacted his friends Joshua and Nicholas Loupe of Morgan City, and the three set out on a dangerous mission that would take 11 hours and would test their faith more than once.

“We’re all men of faith,” King said. “Before we even put our boats in the water, we stood and held hands and prayed. We asked God to watch over us, to give us wisdom and keep us safe. I think because of that, we didn’t have a lot of fear. We kept going even when we thought it might be smarter to turn around and go back.”

cajun-navy-3Their mission was a success and King and the Loupe brothers established the Cajun Army just days after their Cajun Navy experience.

Jon Bridgers Sr. is another Cajun Navy member. At 3 a.m. on Saturday, August 13, a friend called him and asked if he would create a Facebook page to help people facilitate rescues in and around the town of Watson, where the streets were flooding at an alarming rate. Over the next few hours, people posted comments, shared information, and among themselves, connected volunteers with flood victims.

“By daybreak, I had gotten out my 21-foot boat, which seats about eight people,” Bridgers said. “My aunt had called me from Denham Springs and she needed help. The water was in her house. I ended up rescuing her and a friend who lived nearby.”

It would be a long day for Bridgers, followed by a long month, in which he helped people clean up their homes, collected water, food and clothing for flood victims, and drove his own truck to deliver supplies to towns as far away as Maurepas, French Settlement and Springfield.

cajun-navy-8Why? Why were so many people willing to risk their own lives in the service of others?

“I’m a Christian, God-fearing man,” said Bridgers. “If I see a neighbor who needs help – whether it’s life threatening or he just needs a helping hand – the Lord puts it on my heart to reach out and help in any way I can. So there’s no thinking about it or wondering about it. I’m going to do it because it’s the right thing.”

Baton Rouge’s daily newspaper published a Cajun Navy special edition, which featured local residents sharing their own stories in their own words. Many recall offering their Cajun Navy captains money for their time and trouble … but there were no takers. One couple offered money to their rescuer, who responded that he only wanted them to remember that, “down here, we don’t turn our backs on our neighbors in times of need. As a community, we’re stronger than any flood waters.”

Indeed, many residents were inspired to join the Cajun Navy after watching the news or seeing posts on Instagram and Facebook. Media coverage was slow in the first days, but picked up as the magnitude of the crisis became clear. The images stirred up waves of guilt, especially for those who had the means to help, but were instead sitting at home safe and sound.

In Baton Rouge on the Sunday morning of the flood, a growing number of people were checking in with the State Police offering their assistance. The Baton Rouge Costco off of Interstate 12 was quickly becoming a bustling hub of National Guardsmen, law enforcement officers and “regular” citizens. Although some agencies publicly expressed frustration at the idea of (untrained) volunteers organizing rescues, most eventually welcomed the help as the waters continued to rise in the next few days and the number of flooded homes grew by the thousands.

cajun-navy-4Rob Gaudet was involved in many rescues during the flooding, and is considered a leader within the Cajun Navy. He worked alongside law enforcement with volunteers who kept going even though they had barely slept in days. When the deputies had to leave and it was dark outside, the Cajun Navy team was still working … because it was personal. “It was their moms, friends and neighbors out there,” he said.

On September 25, a Red Stick Together concert was held in downtown Baton Rouge to honor the Cajun Navy, and celebrate their bravery. Though no one wanted to be called a hero, several Cajun Navy members were singled out, including Marshal “Big Hog” Hoglund, who was on his way to rescue his girlfriend’s grandmother in Central. On the way, he found an abandoned boat, tied it to his wrist, and then swam with it for two miles to the grandmother’s home. He ended up saving dozens of people in Central.

Emileigh Searcy and Joey Bernard rescued a Pointe Coupee sheriff’s deputy who had been thrown from his boat and was clinging to a tree as a strong current swirled around him. Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard and his deputies reportedly carried out thousands of rescues despite the fact that many of them had lost their own homes in the flood. And the list goes on and on and on.

Significant changes are coming soon for the Cajun Navy. Members from different offshoots of the group have held meetings to discuss becoming more organized and to focus on issues such as training, leadership, regulation, communications and other concerns.

No matter what the future holds, this sea of Good Samaritans will forever be remembered for their courage in the face of devastation, and kindness in the face of incredible pain and loss.  They have earned a place in Louisiana history and Louisiana’s heart.