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Baton Rouge Area Foundation shares updates at 2023 annual meeting.

BRAF elects new Board Members, issues awards for nonprofit and community leadership, and hosts discussion with Special Advisor Mitch Landrieu and Congressman Garret Graves during annual meeting. 

Baton Rouge, LA – March 17, 2023 At its annual meeting Thursday evening, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s members elected Dianna R. Payton, president and CEO of the YWCA, and J. Wesley Daniels, president and CEO of the East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority and Partners Southeast, to the board for a first, three-year term, while re-electing Thomas J. Adamek, Beverly M. Haydel and Linda O. Posner to second terms.  The board also elected a new slate of officers, appointing Jeffrey W. Koonce as chair, Thomas J. Adamek as vice chair, Helena R. Cunningham as secretary, Daniel A. Gardiner Jr. as treasurer, and Annette D. Barton at large. Chris Meyer, as CEO and president, and Jennifer Eplett Reilly, immediate past chair, also serve by virtue of their positions.

“I’m looking forward to leading the Foundation in our next era of our community-focused work. Last year’s strategic planning process allowed us to engage with the community in new ways, and I have so much optimism for our community moving forward and for the impactful initiatives BRAF will implement in the months and years to come” stated Koonce, newly appointed board chair.  

While recounting accomplishments from his first year as president and CEO, Meyer reported that the Foundation’s fund donors contributed about $37 million to their charitable funds and the Foundation granted nearly $40 million on their behalf to nonprofits in 2022, 17% more than the year prior. Membership levels rose to a 5-year high, with nearly 500 people supporting the Foundation through membership.

Meyer also announced Civic Impact Funds, a new offering from the Foundation to address specific issue areas and long-term solutions to our community’s greatest challenges. Civic Impact Funds allow donors to contribute together, thus magnifying their gifts and give to advance specific goals and solutions. Three impact funds have already been established at the Foundation and were announced at the annual meeting. They are the Community Safety Impact Fund, the Camille Coates Environmental Impact Fund, and the Education Impact Fund. 

Reilly stated “These new investment tools will help philanthropists at every level, from $10 to $10 million, engage with the Foundation to drive impact in our community. I’m particularly excited about the Education Impact Fund, which will help support educational innovation from birth to and thru graduation.”

The Foundation also announced winners of the John W. Barton Sr. Excellence in Nonprofit Awards. They are Maxine Crump of Dialogue on Race and Justin Ehrenwerth of The Water Institute of the Gulf. Levar Robinson of Fathers on a Mission won the Rising Star Award.  In its 22nd year, the Barton awards are a tribute to the late Mr. Barton, who led a group of civic leaders that formed the Foundation in 1964. Donors with charitable funds at the Foundation nominate nonprofit executives for the award, and former Foundation chairs choose winners each year.  

John M. Spain was named the sixth winner of the Marcia Kaplan Kantrow Baton Rouge Visionary Award, which was established independently by friends and family of the late Ms. Kantrow, who was the first director of programs for the Foundation. The award honors an individual who has shown particularly visionary leadership for the betterment of Louisiana. Spain has served as executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for nearly 20 years.

“We’re appreciative to John for his leadership and visionary thinking. His tenacity to push for progress has undoubtedly strengthened our community,” commented Meyer. “Honoring him with the Kantrow award seems fitting for a man who has dedicated so much of his life to making Baton Rouge better, one day at a time.”

The meeting also featured special guests; Senior Advisor Mitch Landrieu provided introductory statements about the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act before engaging in a dialogue with Congressman Garret Graves about the bill and the ample opportunities for Louisiana to capitalize on these unprecedented resources.