In the 56 years since the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was founded, it has funded dramatic improvements in research and care. In 1955, children born with CF often died before reaching elementary school. Today, people with CF are living into their 30s, 40s and beyond. More than 47 percent of people with CF are age 18 or older.
The foundation has a unique and successful approach to developing drugs to fight this rare disease; virtually every approved CF drug available today was made possible by foundation support. A popular saying at the foundation says, “Money buys science and science buys life.” Fueled by chapters across the country, the foundation boasts an impressive use of revenue, with nearly 90 cents of every dollar raised supporting vital CF research and educational programs in the effort to make CF stand for cure found.
In 2010, under the leadership of longtime foundation volunteer and board member Jim Harp, Inside Northside Magazine and Hornbeck Offshore Services, Inc. (NYSE:HOS) launched the Northshore’s Finest event, which has two goals. In addition to supporting the foundation, it is a way to celebrate young northshore professionals who are giving of themselves and who have a propensity for getting involved philanthropically. The 13 honorees presented on the following pages were nominated by their peers; they are working to raise both awareness of CF and funds for the foundation. Their efforts will be celebrated at a luncheon at Tchefuncta Country Club July 29.
Alicia Thomas Irmscher
A native of Natchitoches, Alicia Irmscher resides in Slidell and works in Covington for the Notification is Prevention Foundation.
Living on one side of St. Tammany Parish and working on the other has given Alicia the opportunity to enjoy the events, parks and other attractions throughout the parish. As a responsible northshore citizen, she is involved in several different service, philanthropic and political organizations.
Alicia’s parents are her inspiration, both professionally and philanthropically. “They taught me that nothing in life is easy, but with hard work you can be successful in everything you set your mind to do,” she says. “They also taught me that you get more from life by helping and giving to your fellow man, even if it is only a friendly smile or a quick note in the mail saying hello.”
Whether it’s running with the bulls in Spain, traveling through Europe or doing mission work in Kenya, Alicia loves adventure. But most importantly, she loves spending time with her wonderful husband, daughter, parents and close friends.
“It is very easy to get involved on the northshore. Choose organizations that you are passionate about and participate with them fully and completely.”
Ashley E. Rush
Born in Natchez, Mississippi, Ashley Rush, RN, MSN, CPHQ, now resides in Mandeville and works as the Quality Manager at St. Tammany Parish Hospital.
Ashley enjoys the plethora of activities and events on the northshore and the many ways to get involved. “I love the people. I have had many wonderful opportunities through networking with other individuals on the northshore,” she says.
As a member of the First Baptist Church in Covington, Ashley has had many occasions to serve the community and the world through a variety of outreach programs, including a medical mission trip to India.
Philanthropically, Mother Teresa is Ashley’s role model because of her lifelong selfless dedication to the sick and poor, despite much criticism. Ashley’s mother is her professional inspiration because of her hard work and devotion as both a successful mother and a professional.
Ashley values honesty and always strives to do the “right thing for the right reason at the right time.” During her free time, she loves being outdoors, riding bikes, kayaking, exercising, fishing, football and spending time with friends and family.
“You can accomplish anything you set your mind to; if you aren’t successful the first time, keep working and eventually you will be.”
Amber S. Burch
Born at a military hospital on Andrew’s Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C., Amber Burch has called Hammond home for the past 10 years. She works for U.S. Senator David Vitter as his representative in Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.
Having lived in both very rural Washington Parish and very urban Dallas, Amber enjoys the mixture that the northshore brings. She demonstrates her commitment to the community through her involvement in many northshore organizations. “I try to be a good friend and influence to the people that I communicate and work with,” she says.
Amber’s professional role model is her boss, David Doss, whose interaction with others, his genuineness and the way he leads by example have motivated her to work harder and to strive to be patient and kind. Cassie Ragan and Erin Moore Cowser’s high standards for dedication to philanthropy and to people have also inspired her.
During her free time, Amber enjoys going to the gym, cycling, Spoga fitness studio, 5k races, attending church and spending time with loved ones. A “huge fan” of Theodore Roosevelt, she shares this quote by the former president: “I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!”
“Take on the things that you are passionate about and that you can give all of yourself to. It is not worthwhile to be less than your best, so choose your involvements wisely. But after you have chosen them, stick through with commitments and be active!”
A resident of Mandeville, Jesse Hartley serves as the executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center/Hope House.
Jesse says her favorite aspect of the northshore is the people of the community. “Everyone is always willing to lend a hand and so many of our community members truly have a vested interest in seeing this area thrive,” she says.
Through her work at Hope House, Jesse has helped serve and protect abused children and has helped clients on the path to recovery. She has also developed partnerships with other area nonprofits to meet the needs of the community.
Jesse’s role model both professionally and philanthropically is her mother, who was a strong businesswoman and selfless community member. “She taught me to take risks, challenged me to succeed and supported me when things didn’t work out as planned,” Jesse says.
Jesse tries to find humor in all aspects of life, keeping in mind what a wise man once told her: “If it doesn’t eat you, it will only make you stronger.” She spends her free time running, relieving stress with CrossFit, enjoying time with friends and family and being on or near the water whenever possible.
“Find your passion and learn to balance work and play. A truly successful person has success in all areas of their life, not just their career.”
Born in Hammond and now a resident of Ponchatoula, Emily McKneely is the director of sales for the Tangipahoa Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Emily loves the small community feel and the big city amenities of the northshore. “Easily accessible services, quality medical facilities and exceptional educational opportunities abound in Tangipahoa Parish, yet I love walking into the grocery store and running into five people I know,” she says.
Emily supports the northshore community through her involvement in various organizations, including the Ladies’ Top 28 committee, Louisiana Travel Promotion Association, the Southeastern Alumni Board and Leadership Tangipahoa, where she serves as immediate past-chairman. She encourages others to support the community by donating their time, attending local events and participating in special activities for worthwhile causes.
Professionally and philanthropically, Emily’s family is her inspiration. Her grandmother raised five children while her husband worked out of the country as a Merchant Marine, her father provided an example of a strong work ethic and dedication to family and community and her mother was a working mom who successfully balanced family, work and community involvement.
During her limited free time, Emily enjoys the company of loved ones, community events, Saints and Southeastern football, boating on the Tangipahoa River and the lakes, beach vacations, traveling and completing home improvement projects.
“Make the most of your time, talk to everyone you can, be organized, set goals and remember that if you support your community, it will support you. Join local committees or boards. Get involved!”
A lifelong resident of Folsom, Kristen O’Keefe is a branch manager at the Capital One Bank on Highway 21; she is also the outreach coordinator for State Representative Scott M. Simon.
Kristen appreciates the family-friendly environment of the northshore. She enjoys giving of her time to help those who cannot help themselves and working with community leaders to better the northshore community. She serves on the board for New Heights Therapeutic Riding Center.
Kristen says she is blessed with outstanding friends and family, including her mother, Martha Cazaubon, who has been an incredible role model. “Her energy, charisma, positive attitude and community involvement have been an inspiration to me all of my life,” she says. “Her love and support afford me the opportunity to excel professionally and personally.”
Kristen strives to “add value everyday by adding sunshine to people’s lives.” Although free time is scarce, she and her husband are currently studying to become private pilots, so that “the sky is not the limit.”
“Wake up every day and find a way to add value to another person’s life. Remember, it is possible to make a difference, and sometimes the difference may not be instantaneous. Don’t look for something in return.”
Born in Metairie, Lauren Coudrain is now a resident of Covington and president/CEO of the Coudrain Group, LLC, which she founded in 2010 to provide social media and online fundraising assistance to nonprofit organizations.
Lauren enjoys living on the northshore because of its rapid growth, which provides the opportunity to be part of positive progressive change as St. Tammany becomes a new hub for the entire state of Louisiana.
Lauren’s personal and professional focus has always been concentrated on nonprofits and the services they provide to the community. She currently serves as chair of Northshore Rising Professionals and on the boards of the St. Tammany West Chamber and Northshore Neighborhood Housing Services. She is also an active member of the Covington Rotary Club, Greater Northshore Association of Fundraising Professionals, St. Tammany Commission on Families and the Leadership St. Tammany Alumni Foundation.
John Tobin, a truly inspirational community leader and mentor, is Lauren’s professional and philanthropic role model. She admires John’s selfless service to the community, his tireless commitment to people in need and his constant consideration for the community in every decision he makes.
When she is not busy serving the community, Lauren’s hobbies include painting, photography, writing and using power tools.
“Business networking is great, but I’ve found that community service is the best way to truly network with others. Professional and philanthropic goals are best when intertwined with one another—the opportunity to give back while promoting professional goals is immeasurable.”
Paul A. Myers IV
Paul Myers was born in Natchez, Mississippi, and currently resides in Covington. He is a commercial lender/business banker in the Mandeville Office of Metairie Bank & Trust.
Paul’s favorite aspect of the northshore is “the small town feel,” and he appreciates everything his community has to offer, especially the family environment.
Paul has taken advantage of the everyday opportunities to make a difference on the northshore by teaching Junior Achievement at Fontainebleau High School, organizing food drives for the Covington Food Bank, working with small businesses to assist with economic difficulties and volunteering for other great causes to benefit the community.
Professionally, Paul’s inspiration comes from his father’s work ethic and respect for all people and his great-grandfather’s loyalty and integrity. Paul’s philanthropic role model, his grandfather, always said, “Never complain about what is going on in your community unless you are willing to lend a hand to make it better.”
Paul’s strength and motivation comes from his family. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two children, exercising, hunting, fishing and volunteering for Ducks Unlimited.
“The challenges are out there, but it is up to all of us to be proactive. If you commit to something, give it 100 percent!”
Randy Bidleman was born in Detroit, Michigan, but has called Mandeville home for 30 years. He is a vice president/senior business banker at Capital One Bank in Mandeville.
Randy is passionate about the northshore community and feels very fortunate to live, work and raise a family here. He also enjoys the people, cultural arts, energy and natural beauty of the northshore.
Randy is a board member and treasurer of the PIG Invitational Charity, which raises money for needy children and seniors in St. Tammany Parish. He also serves on the Ambassadors Council of the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Leadership St. Tammany Class of 2011 and has volunteered for the Children’s Museum of St. Tammany, Junior Achievement, Habitat for Humanity and Kids Konnection.
Randy’s parents are his professional and philanthropic inspiration. He describes his father, Jerry, as “an ultimate professional in the business world” and says that his parents are two of the most generous, giving and loving people he has ever known.
In addition to playing drums for the local band 4-Unplugged, Randy enjoys playing roller hockey and golf and staying active in his two sons’ sports activities.
“In both my professional world and in my philanthropic activities, I always try to follow my heart. Money and material things should not be the single driving force behind the decisions you make.”
Sandy Armstead Summers
Born in Plaquemine, Sandy Summers currently lives in Hammond, where she works as the assistant director of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Sandy likes being a part of the exciting growth the northshore is experiencing. She says she appreciates the friendly spirit in the area that is welcoming to many backgrounds. In an effort to give back to the community, Sandy volunteers in various northshore organizations.
Sandy’s inspiration comes from God and His Word, as well as her mother and sister. “They have both played such a huge and positive role in my life that no person—no matter how famous—can compare to them,” she says. For Sandy, her mother and sister embody love, faith, strength and courage as they donate their time, money and talents to people and projects that matter.
Sandy loves God, her family and helping others. Her free time is nonexistent, as her two small children and her volunteer efforts keep her busy.
“Strive to do good work and good things for others—regardless if the project is large or small—because you never know who is watching or who you may impact.”
Lani Ramhofer Fast
Born and raised in the New Orleans metropolitan area, Lani Fast has lived on the northshore for eight years and currently resides in Mandeville. She is the clinic operations manager at Ochsner Medical Center – Northshore.
Lani calls the northshore home because of the great sense of community it provides through the people, who are down-to-earth and welcoming. She enjoys the blessing of “nature’s best,” from the lake, bayous and natural springs, to the scenic parks and fabulous food. “There are so many great specialty businesses that showcase the spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship that this parish maintains,” she adds.
A supporter of area nonprofit organizations, Lani is also involved in the northshore community as a graduate of Leadership Northshore and a member of East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Young Professionals. She is inspired by a quote from Maya Angelou: “One must know not just how to accept a gift, but with what grace to share it.”
Lani enjoys spending free time with her family and friends. She is always up for a road trip, boat ride, beachside or a good festival!
“When you find yourself blessed, pay those blessings forward to your community, whatever your interest may be.”
Samuel L. Pons
Born in Metairie, Samuel L. Pons lives in downtown New Orleans but works on the northshore. As a business unit manager for Hornbeck Offshore Services, Sam is responsible for all aspects of the downstream petroleum transportation segment of HOS in Covington.
“My involvement with cystic fibrosis is a natural fit—both personally and professionally. My cousin Verna Bieber has two young children affected by the disease, and I recently learned that a co-worker has a daughter with CF,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to serving on the event committee for the inaugural Grapes and Grain benefit on the northshore this fall, as we seek to fund a cure for CF.”
Carl Annessa, COO of Hornbeck Offshore, is Sam’s professional role model. He is inspired by Carl’s incredible knowledge and experience across a wide range of business functions and his respect for people, regardless of professional standing.
Sam’s philanthropic inspiration is Jim Harp, who makes time to help others despite his busy schedule as a father and as an executive and CFO of Hornbeck Offshore.
Although he has very little free time, Sam enjoys spending time with his friends, playing golf and exercising. However, he is probably best known around town for his role as the lead singer-songwriter of the alternative pop/rock band Lucy’s Walk, which can frequently be heard in New Orleans venues such as the Howlin’ Wolf, Tipitina’s and the House of Blues.
“Care about what you are doing.”
J. Todd Reeves
Originally from Monroe, Todd Reeves grew up in Slidell and has been a resident of Mandeville for the past 10 years. He is co-owner/owner of The Reeves Law Firm, the All American Title Agency and the All Pro Sports Agency.
Todd’s favorite thing about the northshore is that it’s “home.” “It’s where I grew up, where my kids are growing up, where my family is, where my church is and it’s a community of people that I have created friendships with, have helped and who have helped me,” he says.
Todd enjoys volunteering to help others in the northshore community through his church, civic groups and community service groups such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, STARC, the Northshore Foundation, the Louisiana State Bar Association and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Todd says there are many people who have inspired him professionally and philanthropically. “I am fortunate and blessed that God has put these people in my life who teach and encourage me to persevere in becoming the best I can be—not only through their words but in their actions and deeds,” he says.
During his free time, Todd loves just being with his wife and two daughters—“whether it’s at home watching a movie, playing hide-n-go-seek, going to the park, the zoo, flying kites, going to the beach, seeing the Saints and Tigers play, snow skiing, fishing, riding horses, swimming, boating, singing—as long as it is with the three girls who rule my world I’m a happy man.”
“I believe that we all have the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of others, and it is important that we encourage one another to do so because this will ensure that our community will continue to thrive.”Filed under: July-August 2011, Northshore Living, Northshore Notables, St. Tammany Life