2023 Angels

Frederick Burgess

Stop the Violence


“Frederick is a man on a mission, driven by the heartache of losing so many young people to gun violence and other crime in Alexandria. He was raised here and has worked as a reserve law enforcement officer for years. So, he loved the community enough to do something about it.

In 2018, Stop the Violence opened its doors in partnership with the Alexandria Housing Authority, and the impact was immediate. Children from all over the city flocked to the Charles Hayward Activity Center knowing that it would be a safe place to gather with their friends and neighbors to play basketball, eat snacks, study, and just be a kid for a few hours after school. Their parents encouraged them to keep coming back consistently for the tutoring and education opportunities. It kept them off the streets and out of trouble.

Mr. Fred and his small team of volunteers have put an incredible amount of personal attention and encouragement on these 1,100+ young people. Their grades improve not just because of the tutoring, but because they know he’s watching their grades, checking in with their teachers, and giving them a push when they need it.

He loves to show off ‘his’ kids. He celebrates them when they achieve success – which could be making the honor roll,  pulling up a failing grade, when a truant student starts attending school regularly, someone goes to college, or someone who has dropped out finishes their GED and starts to learn a trade. He is truly an angel to these young people, and we are so very blessed to have him on our side.”

- Megan Joiner
Administrative Program Manager | Alexandria Housing Authority
Watch Frederick's Story

Mary Barrios

Town of Farmerville


“One of the things I hear Mary say often is ‘Everyone deserves to be at the table.’ She believes that all voices matter, and that communities are better when everyone feels welcomed and are all looking out for each other.

As a Community Outreach Coordinator for the Town of Farmerville, Mary works incredibly hard to create spaces where people learn about each other. She is the visionary behind a festival celebrating Latino culture, Black History Month events, bilingual reading and education programs, and so much more. She brings people together because, as she says, ‘It’s hard to hate up close.’

Mary cares for people and their children as if they were her own family. If there’s a new family in town, she’ll give their kids rides to the library, go to their homes to volunteer translation services for those who don’t speak English, and attend back-to-school programs with students whose parents work nights. People are always reaching out to her for help and advice.

Her father, Miguel, was a Latino missionary who ministered to migrant workers and brought Spanish-speaking churches to our parish. Many people looked at him as a father figure. Once Mary moved back to Union Parish to care for her mother — and especially after both of her parents passed away — she inherited that role. People see Mary as a matriarch in the community, and they come to her for everything. She’s an angel to them and to me.”

- Stephanie Herrmann
Director | Union Parish Library, 2020 Angel Award Honoree
Watch Mary's Story

Lisa Conly Cronin

Common Ground Community, Inc.


“By trade, Lisa is a practicing attorney. Since 2009, she’s also served as the volunteer executive director of Common Ground Community, Inc., a local nonprofit that focuses on improving the lives of children and adults living in the Cedar Grove neighborhood of Shreveport.

Common Ground builds community through compassionate outreach, genuine care, and acceptance of all people. They serve a community meal each week, run a clothes closet, and provide a food pantry for the community at large. The organization helps kids with school readiness by providing tutoring, a free summer day camp, and youth programs that build community while teaching kids how to be of service.

The organization is almost entirely volunteer-driven, and Lisa’s persistence and dedication inspire others to join. She’s purchased textbooks out of her own pocket, provided transportation for students, helped their families fill out financial aid forms for school, and has personally seen to it that kids and families have the support they need to be successful.

Lisa is tireless. She spends the first half of the day at the law firm, and the second half at Common Ground. She’s also an adjunct professor and a mother. And despite all of that, she finds the energy to lead by example. Lisa never asks anyone to do anything that she’s not willing to do. She balances the books and makes public presentations, but she also takes out the trash, mops the floors, and plays with children. She radiates humility and graciousness. There are many young people finishing college, entering the workforce, and achieving their dreams who can trace a part of their success back to the support of Lisa and Common Ground.”

- Kristina Gustavson
CEO | The Community Foundation of North Louisiana
Watch Lisa's Story

Chantelle Varnado

LAUNCH Therapy Center

Denham Springs

“Livingston Parish and the surrounding areas have had limited access to the therapeutic services needed by children with disabilities. This includes speech, physical, and occupational therapies. Chantelle started Launch Therapy Center in 2015 to provide a local option for high-quality therapy. It’s a non-profit center that makes it possible for families to get holistic care for their children without having to travel a long way.

Early identification and initiation of therapy services for children with disabilities are crucial in development and treatment planning. Launch Therapy Center is one of only three pediatric therapy centers in the area and is currently the only clinic in the area that provides fully integrated services. They receive hundreds of referrals each year. Chantelle isn’t just the Executive Director, but she’s also a practicing therapist and sees patients.

In her first year, Chantelle hired a staff of therapists and drove a successful capital campaign to build a facility. In 2016, a week after she signed a purchase agreement for a building, the historic floods washed into Baton Rouge — inundating not only the new building, but Chantelle’s own home and the church out of which Launch was operating. It took her just three weeks to get the center back online.

When COVID came, Launch was the first to offer telehealth options. Chantelle is committed to her community in such a way that no challenge will keep her from realizing her vision. She is the person that you know will always be there when you need her, even if you are a stranger. She has a heart for service and unmatched determination in advocating for those with special needs. I cannot think of another individual that has shown so much determination and passion for the community that she serves.”

- Angela Alessi
Watch Chantelle's Story

Tamiko Francis Garrison

Donaldsonville Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council


“Tamiko Francis Garrison is the Manager of Medicare Advantage Compliance at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. Additionally, she serves as a part-time Justice of the Peace and is very active in the Donaldsonville community, where she and her extended family have lived and served in a number of civic capacities for decades.

As a mother, Tamiko thoughtfully considered what skills her own daughter would need in life to advocate for herself as she became an adult — not just communication skills, but also knowledge of civic processes and how communities function.

This inspired Tamiko to create the Donaldsonville Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, which familiarizes young people with community activism, business leaders, and community leaders at a local, state, and national level. She has been the sole volunteer and coordinator engaging with students, teachers, and administrators at Donaldsonville and Ascension Catholic High Schools.

In addition to training students to be leaders, Tamiko organizes field trips where students can put their skills to use meeting and discussing issues with their own elected leaders — ranging from their school board and city government to national representatives in Washington, D.C.

Tamiko is passionate and seeks to change the world one youth at a time. She is training a generation of empowered, civically engaged young adults who are positioned to make positive changes in their communities, their state, and their world.”

- Wesley Miller
Director, Medicare Advantage Compliance | Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Watch Tamiko's Story

Ellen Doskey

Girls on the Run


“Ellen is a founding board member of Girls on the Run – Bayou Region (GOTR), an after-school program for girls ages 8-13 that provides mentorship and life lessons through a program which creatively integrates running and physical activity.

When GOTR started, there were just a dozen girls. Ellen has been one of the coaches for a decade, and spending time with each girl is how she learns about their lives, their challenges, and what they need. She’s kept up that hands-on approach as the organization has grown across the region to include more than 800 runners.

COVID and multiple natural disasters nearly ended GOTR, but Ellen stepped up as the board president and led fundraising and strategic planning that sustained it until 2022, their big comeback year. The program is now bigger than ever.

Ellen has been an assistant district attorney in Terrebonne Parish since 1997. She is the sole attorney in the office who handles “Child In Need of Care” cases that involve neglect or abuse. It’s tough work, but Ellen stays focused on the needs of each child. It inspired her to create the first Family Preservation Court in Terrebonne Parish, which is helping dozens of parents with substance abuse issues recover and stay connected to their families.

The way Ellen lives her life reflects one of the most important things that Girls on the Run teaches, which is the value of discipline and a willingness to try again and again. Every day that you show up, you get a little better, until you’ve made a big enough  difference that you can’t recognize where you started.”

- Charles Doskey
Husband | No. 1 Fan
Watch Ellen's Story

Dr. Murelle G. Harrison

The Gardere Initiative

Baton Rouge

“The Gardere Initiative, which has uplifted and supported its neighborhoods in every way imaginable since its inception in 2006, has continued to be one of Baton Rouge's most awe-inspiring nonprofit organizations. This statement could not be true without the incomparable work of its Executive Director, Dr. Murelle Harrison.

The operations of the nonprofit organization flow through her in every way, shape, and form. Dr. Harrison’s utmost goal is the wellness and protection of children she serves in the community through all of the tireless work she provides in Gardere Initiative programs: after-school and weekend programs where kids get help with homework and have safe spaces to play; helping families get access to housing, food, and healthcare; and face-to-face counseling and mentoring that helps people determine their path and pursue it vigorously.

Most families in the Gardere area earn less than the Federal poverty line, and many are Latinx families without access to necessities. The Gardere Initiative does whatever is needed to help people get solid footing, particularly in the interest of providing their children with a better life. They help with job placement and teach ESL classes, and offer places where kids can learn and play while their parents are working.

The most important thing that Dr. Harrison and the Gardere Initiative do is create community. She’s not only brought in civic and church partners to support the area, but she also creates spaces where people can come together safely and joyously. She’s done all of this as a volunteer, never taking pay from the organization over her long tenure. Dr. Harrison serves from a sense of mission. She honors the humanity and dignity of every person she meets and is an inspiring force.”

- Richard Haydel
Student | LSU
Watch Dr. Murelle's Story

Melanie Bronfin

Louisiana Policy Institute for Children

New Orleans

“For more than 25 years, Melanie Bronfin has been one of Louisiana's most fervent advocates for young children and their families. An attorney by trade, Melanie has helped to author and get passed some of the most impactful public policy legislation in our state's history.

Melanie founded the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children in 2013 to be a voice for vulnerable children and their families at the statewide policy level. She served as its Executive Director for its first five years and led the Policy Institute to become Louisiana's leading independent source of data, research, and public policy proposals on issues related to young children and their families. Melanie was instrumental in reforming Louisiana's early learning system, which has made it possible for tens of thousands of young children from families with low incomes to get publicly supported, comprehensive, high-quality early care and education.

In all of her pursuits, Melanie not only excels, but gives everything she has to ensure success for children and families. She is the definition of determination and willingness to put everything on the line to help improve the lives of others.

Few have done more in Louisiana to push for the enactment of public policies that support and safeguard the healthy development, growth and well-being of our state's infants, toddlers and preschoolers than Melanie Bronfin!”

- Keith Liederman
CEO | Clover (formerly Kingsley House)
Watch Melanie's Story

Penny Smith and Melva Villard



“Penny and Melva are first and foremost devoted mothers who want the best for their children. They are also tireless advocates for the needs of children with developmental and intellectual disabilities; each of them has a daughter with a disability that has made her ineligible for college admission.

Katelyn (Penny’s daughter) and Morgan (Melva’s daughter) are both bright, curious, and engaging young women who think about their futures and want to make independent lives for themselves. Penny learned that there were programs offered on college campuses in South Louisiana that helped students with disabilities achieve those goals. However, there were no programs north of Interstate 10.

Penny wrote to Gov. John Bel Edwards asking for his help in developing post-secondary educational options for young people in Central Louisiana. His response was to ask her to work with LSUA to develop a program. She did just that. Her intervention and her collaboration with LSUA led to the development and launch of SPERO (Special Program for the Enhancement of Resources and Opportunities for Students with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities).

Melva has also played a vital role in the program’s development. She joined Penny in advocating with school administrators, community leaders, and funders to create and launch SPERO. Both women became members of an LSUA steering committee that met for over two years. They never missed a meeting and provided crucial help and guidance to the other committee members.

SPERO was launched in Fall 2022. Through the program, eligible students are integrated into the campus experience. They audit college-level classes and receive training designed to develop their daily living, interpersonal, and employment skills. They also spend time and make friends with degree-seeking students in their age cohort, bridging their connection to the campus community at large.

Melva and Penny have different approaches and personalities. Melva is more forward, Penny more reserved. But both speak from the heart about their children, have worked incredibly hard to provide opportunities for them, and are opening doors not only for their own daughters, but also for other young people in our region.”

- Eamon Halpin, PhD
Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs | LSU Alexandria
Watch Penny and Melva's Story

Get Involved

The work of our Angels requires community support, volunteers and donations. Please consider supporting them:

Stop the Violence

Frederick Burgess, Alexandria
www.stoptheviolencealex.org(225) 250-6272

Friends of Unity Park

Mary Barrios, Farmerville
www.facebook.com/friendsofunitypark(318) 368-9242

Common Ground Community, Inc.

Lisa Conly Cronin
www.commongroundshreveport.com(318) 606-5024

LAUNCH Therapy Center

Chantelle Varnado, Denham Springs
www.launchpeds.com(225) 380-1894

Donaldsonville Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council

Tamiko Francis Garrison, Donaldsonville
www.facebook.com/MYACDVILLE(225) 473-4247, Ext. 10

Girls on the Run – Bayou Region

Ellen Doskey, Houma
www.gotrbayouregion.org(985) 855-4319

The Gardere Initiative

Dr. Murelle G. Harrison, Baton Rouge
www.gardereinitiative.org(225) 769-0305

Louisiana Policy Institute for Children

Melanie Bronfin, New Orleans
www.policyinstitutela.org(504) 442-0298


Penny Smith and Melva Villard, Alexandria
www.lsua.edu/academics/spero(318) 427-4475

About the Angel Award

To live healthy lives, children need safe places to live, learn and play. They need access to healthy food, guidance and educational opportunities. Across Louisiana, there are thousands of children without access to the support they need to thrive. Thankfully, there are also thousands of everyday people working to make a difference in the lives of children.The Angel Award® honors everyday people doing extraordinary good to meet the physical, emotional, creative or spiritual needs of Louisiana’s kids. Since 1995, the Foundation has recognized more than 200 of these outstanding individuals. Each Angel Award also provides much-needed resources — a $25,000 grant for each Angel’s nonprofit charity. The Blue Angel Award honors a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana employee who volunteers on behalf of Louisiana’s children with a $10,000 grant.Past honorees, ranging in age from 13 to 98, have been coaches, teachers, clergy, doctors, homemakers, entrepreneurs and others. They’ve served as volunteers, staff and board members of exceptional nonprofits working to benefit kids. What they have in common is an unselfish contribution of time and energy to improve the welfare of Louisiana children.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation Board of Directors

Dan S. Borné
Kevin McCotter
Secretary and Treasurer
C. Richard Atkins, D.D.S.
Michael Bruno
Jerome "Jerry" Greig
Dr. Carl Luikart
Judy Miller
Peggy Scott
Dr. Vindell Washington
Michael Tipton
President, Ex Officio

Community Partnerships Staff

Michael Tipton
President & Head of Community Relations
Karen Bolles
Operations Manager
Kellie Duhon
Corporate Giving Programs Manager
Tanja Foil
Foundation Initiatives Coordinator
Ben Mahoney
Communications & Special Projects Manager
Diana Nguyen
Community Relations Assistant
Eleanor Simmons
Community Relations Assistant
Natalie Wesley
Employee Giving Manager
Chloé Wiley
Foundation Initiatives Manager


Tanja Foil
Event Coordination and Logistics
Ben Mahoney
Project Manager, Creative Direction
Genevieve Procell
Art Direction and Design
Gerald Reed
Graphic Design
Desiree Robertson
Video Profile Producer
Chloé Wiley
Video Profile Producer
James Peck, The Pixel House
Photos and Video