Places & Faces
Thriving 30-Somethings
4/2/2018 9:39:47 PM
Thriving 30-Somethings

Local 30-somethings are passionate about Southwest Louisiana, and that fact is evident in the way many of them spend their time, whether at home, work, or play. They enjoy the regional culture, the food, the music, and the natural beauty of the Lake Area. They show up for fundraisers and other civic events. They take their families to our many local festivals and parades, and pass on their love of SWLA to their children. No matter what their activities, they strive to make our corner of the world a better place to live. They are high achievers in their workplaces. They volunteer their time and resources to worthy causes. In short, they care deeply about their community. Each year, we celebrate this youthful exuberance by hosting our 13 Thriving 30-Somethings contest. Read on to learn about this year’s winners.

John Reddin, 36
Sr. Sergeant Deputy, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office

John has been a public servant his entire adult life. He joined the United States Marines immediately after high school in 1999. He served our country until 2005 when he was honorably discharged. During his time in the Marines, he was deployed to Iraq to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom. While there, he was wounded in an ambush and was awarded the Purple Heart medal.

From the day he was hired by the Sheriff’s office, John has been a volunteer, no matter how minimal or time consuming the task. He took charge of the Sheriff’s honor guard and transformed them into one of the most elite honor guards in the nation. Because of his stellar reputation, John has been asked to help coordinate funerals for fallen officers all over our parish and state. He does this without hesitation and without any expectations of compensation because he loves his community and loves the profession he chose. John is currently assigned to the Sheriff’s Office Anti-Crime and Tactics Unit (SWAT team) where he is the team leader. He is a firearms, defensive tactics, and active shooter instructor. He is always striving to better himself so he in turn can be an effective trainer. 

John has volunteered countless hours teaching women self-defense and gun safety. He is one of the main instructors of Sheriff Mancuso’s "Together We Can” program and teaches citizens how to respond to an active shooter situation. "I enjoy public service because not everyone can do it and I know that I am the kind of person who will do it to the best of my ability. The harder I work, the safer this community is for my family.”

Favorite thing about SWLA: The people.
Favorite place to go: The lake.
Favorite thing to do:  Check out the local food scene. 
Favorite SWLA food: Calla restaurant
Favorite festival: The Bon Ton Festival

Sarah Beth Kennison, 37
Owner, Bauhaus Salon

Even as a child, Sarah Kennison wanted to be a hair dresser. She worked in a salon during high school and cut her friends’ hair in her bathroom. After graduation from Stage One, she attended Vidal Sassoon Academy for Advanced Training. At the young age of 22 and fresh out of cosmetology school, Sarah opened her own hair salon. With a strong work ethic and perseverance, she sought to provide stellar service to her customers. In June 2017, she opened a brand-new location for her full-service Bauhaus Salon. Her adjacent Haus Spa and Wellness Suite is slated to open this spring. 

Sarah has been active with the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology and has been involved in legislation and policies that remain today. She currently serves on the Louisiana Cosmetology Board. She has worked as a consultant for Masterpiece Consulting Group since 2011, implementing employee procedure manuals for salons. 

Sarah says her parents taught her the importance of good leadership. "I am the youngest of five children. All five of us are successful entrepreneurs. My parents always told us we are only as good as the people who work for us, so always treat them with respect and take care of them.”

Her community service includes volunteering at her church and the school at Our Lady Queen of Heaven. She’s an active member of Krewe du Sauvage. She is also a member of Phi Mu Sorority Alumni Association and National Panhellenic Council.

Favorite thing about SWLA: The people and sense of community.
Favorite place to go: Mass at OLQH. "It’s my peace every week.”
Favorite thing to do: Workouts every morning with Cedric at Project Fit. 
Favorite SWLA food: ALL food and great wine . . . I love all the local chefs and restaurants.
Favorite festival: Mardi Gras, of course!

Jessica McBride, 37
Branch Manager, Assurance Financial

Through her hardworking dedication and "can-do” attitude, Jessica McBride has succeeded both professionally and as a committed community volunteer. She was named a "Top Ten Mortgage Originator,” and was one of only six employees chosen from a national team to be on a "Leadership and Advisory Committee.” This wife and mom of two daughters says her husband inspires her to be successful. "He has always allowed me to pursue my passions in my career and beyond. He worked a steady job while I went back to school and chased my dreams. He pushes me to be ‘me’ and not shy away from opportunities to serve.” 

Jessica is a Fusion Five board member, currently serving as the co-chair of the events committee, and has also been a part of the membership committee as Communications Chair. She’s a founding member of the Moss Bluff Women’s League, a new organization that focuses on the community to provide scholarships for local teens. She’s a member of the McNeese Quarterback Club, a member of CASA Advisory board, active in Krewe de la Famille, and volunteers for "Truth Facts & Lies” where she visits local high schools and presents guided discussions about social issues facing teens. She also is currently hosting a foreign exchange student from China. It sounds like a lot, but Jessica loves this community and strives to make it a better place. "I cannot do that if I just do my day job and go home. I have to get involved.”

Favorite thing about SWLA: The people. "The people here are just nicer and more likely to chat with people randomly. I can’t tell you how many friends I make waiting to check out at the grocery store.”
Favorite place to go: Crying Eagle Brewery
Favorite thing to do:  Hang out with friends at local restaurants.  
Favorite SWLA food:  Crawfish . . . as if it could be anything else.

Krystle Blue, 32
Executive Officer, Home Builders Association SWLA

Krystle attended LSU and earned a degree in Mass Communications. She is currently the executive officer of the Home Builders Association SWLA, and says she loves every minute of it. "I think it’s important to love what you do and have fun doing it.”

Prior to this position, she was the marketing coordinator for Lake Area Medical and was the lead for the Healthy Women’s Program that grew to 5,000 members. Krystle shares her time, talents, and treasures for a variety of causes. She’s a member of Fusion Five, the 2018 Chair of the Women in Business Network for the SWLA Chamber, a CHRISTUS LiveWell Women’s Network Council Member, 2017 Graduate of Leadership Southwest and a current member of the Leadership Southwest Council. She can often be found behind the scenes working events to help better our community. She left Lake Charles and moved out of state for a few years but returned home when she realized she could be a part of meaningful impact and change. "This community will always hold a special part of my heart as a place where my family grew up for many generations, the place I grew up, and the place I am raising my son. I love that the culture and goodness of people in SWLA doesn’t change, even though the landscape does.” 

Favorite thing about SWLA: The people that make up our community and the unique culture they have created. 
Favorite place to go and thing to do: We are lucky in the sense that there is ALWAYS something to do in SWLA. I love going on adventures with my family. Sometimes that’s jumping in the car, checking out a festival, seeing what animals are stirring on the nature trail, or heading out to the farm.
Favorite SWLA food: If it’s from SWLA, I’m going to love it . . . especially when paired with a glass of wine. 
Favorite festival: The International Rice Festival in Crowley, LA.

Kari Hankins, 36
Nurse Practitioner and founder of non-profit organization Truth, Facts, and Lies

Kari met her husband at Barbe High School in her Gifted English class during her senior year. She now works as a nurse practitioner at Urgent Care on Nelson Road. Kari has worked with Brewer’s Plate to support the St. Nicholas Center, is part of the Junior League of Lake Charles, serves as an ICCS parent volunteer, and works with St. Martin de Porres in their Meals for Moms program. One of Kari’s greatest passions, besides her three children, is her nonprofit program for teens, Truth, Facts, and Lies. This program began with Kari, who started seeing teen girls on Medicaid. She realized these girls were making potentially life-altering decisions based on bad information. This program empowers teens to deal with the issues they face each day, from small social media issues to bigger topics like abuse. They maintain a volunteer group of twenty to thirty highly-trained people in the community who offer their services to teens at each Calcasieu Parish high school, free of charge. 

Favorite thing about SWLA: Kari loves the sense of community here in Southwest Louisiana, and how everyone is quick to help friends and strangers alike. She says she volunteers in this great community as a way to earn her keep and make sure her life has counted in some way.
Favorite SWLA food:  Boiled crabs.
Favorite place: Locally, she loves spending the day on the boat, watching her children tube and learn to ski, or watching her husband wakeboard, but in general, she loves the beach!
Favorite thing to do:  Going out to dinner with friends and family or listening to live music.  
Favorite festival: Beer Fest!

Graham Martin, 38
Owner, Martin Insulation and Coating

As a lifelong resident of Lake Charles, Graham has always been a part of the Southwest Louisiana community. After graduating from McNeese State University, Graham set out to open his business, Martin Insulation and Coating. Each year, Graham compiles a list all of the customers who used Martin Insulation that year and draws a name randomly. That person gets a check back for the amount they spent with him. 

In addition to opening his business, Graham was selected to be a member of Louisiana State Code Council for Spray Polyurethane Plastic Insulation, which allows him to assist in creating standards for all insulators to follow.

An active member in our community, Graham has spent many years volunteering as a coach for various sports teams and he is an avid donor of Catholic Charities, the St. Nicholas Center, and the Autism Society. In addition, each year Graham donates a sports board for each senior football player of A.M. Barbe High School, his alma mater. Graham is passionate about making a difference, providing for his family, and supporting his community. He believes in supporting local businesses and says that recognition means nothing if he isn’t helping others and making our community a better place.

Favorite thing about SWLA: The people! He says that although our area is constantly growing, it still has a small town feel to it.
Favorite places: Local events like Chuck Fest and Rouge et Blanc, and any place that involves hanging out with his family or friends.
Favorite thing to do: Spending time in his back yard with friends and family, grilling steaks and enjoying the pool.  
Favorite SWLA food: Botsky’s, Sloppy’s, and of course, Darrell’s. He also says that the many great local seafood restaurants in town should be honorably mentioned, as well as the Harlequin.
Favorite festival: Local events like Autism Goes Country and Chuck Fest.

Ronaldo Hardy, 34
President and CEO, SWLA Credit Union

Ronaldo worked at McDonald’s his senior year of high school. Because of his commitment to excellent service, he says he was recruited by a local bank as a teller. "I had no idea it would lead to a career in financial services.”

Ronaldo came to SWLA Credit Union in 2016. He brought 15 years of banking industry experience with him. Under Ronaldo’s leadership, Southwest Louisiana Credit Union has engaged underserved families across the region and inspired them to rethink managing their finances. Ronaldo and his team are ambitious and creative with their strategies to address issues of poverty and teach financial independence. Recently, the credit union gave $20,000 in gifts to the underserved in the community, including a breast cancer survivor, a Sowela student whose family was rescued from Hurricane Harvey, and a family who was living in a condemned trailer.

Ronaldo earned a BA degree in business administration from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a master’s degree in human resource education from LSU. He serves as the Founder and Chairman of the Louisiana Credit Union League’s Young Professionals Network, Chairman of Credit Union National Association’s Young Professionals Committee, and is also a member of Filene’s Research Council. "My drive for success comes from both a desire to help people and leave a legacy for my family. My personal mission statement for my life is to change the world by building people who will change the world.”

The son of pastor parents, and also a pastor himself, Ronaldo says, "From an early age my life has been grounded in church. At the core of my heart, people have always been my priority. I can’t imagine doing anything not centered on improving the lives of others.”

Favorite thing about SWLA: The food!
Favorite place to go: Rikenjaks.
Favorite thing to do:  Spend time with his wife and four kids.
Favorite SWLA food: The Ronaldo at Rikenjaks (It’s the Baja Burger with grilled fish instead of beef.) 
Favorite festival: Crawfish Festival.

Elizabeth Eustis, 32
Digital Media Manager, SWLA Convention and Visitors Bureau

ARaised in the small town of Elmer, La., near Alexandria, Elizabeth Eustis studied broadcast journalism at McNeese State University. She worked as a reporter for KLAX-TV in Alexandria, where she covered crime, human interest, and a weekly medical segment. "I loved being in television. That fast-paced atmosphere taught me to be quick on my feet and to be authentic - really just to be myself!”

Elizabeth began her career at the CVB in 2014 in public relations. With her vivacious personality and quick wit, she was ideally suited to interact with travel media. In the summer of 2015, Elizabeth was promoted to the position of digital media manager. She has a natural passion for promoting all things Louisiana. She interacts with the public via the VisitLakeCharles website, blog, and social media platforms and keeps both locals and potential visitors up-to-date with the latest happenings in Southwest Louisiana.

Elizabeth has served on the board of directors of the Arts & Humanities Council for over two years. She volunteers for arts events and assists anyone who would like to learn more about social media. She has worked with other CVB staffers to create professional development/social media training seminars. Elizabeth coined the term "YOUniversity,” the name of the CVB’s annual professional development program. She earned her Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification and will be recognized at the TMP graduation ceremony during the Southeast Tourism Society’s Spring Symposium this month.

Favorite thing about SWLA: The easy, laid back vibes of our area. 
Favorite places: The Bekery, farmers markets, and at home with my husband and new baby, Phineas!
Favorite thing to do: Gardening and cooking. Even better, cooking with something I’ve grown!  
Favorite SWLA food: Boudin
Favorite festival: Boudin Wars! 

Dr. Laurie Baynard, 31
Chiropractor & owner, Lake Charles Chiropractic and Functional Medicine & L Bridal Couture

Dr. Laurie Baynard is a chiropractor and owner of Lake Charles Chiropractic and Functional Medicine. She also recently opened L Bridal Couture. Though vastly different, both businesses are long-time passions for Laurie. In her chiropractic office, Laurie is passionate about women’s health, especially pregnant women. "Prior to me focusing my practice on pregnancy chiropractic in Lake Charles, there weren’t many resources for pregnant women in our area with back pain. It was just labeled as "part of pregnancy” and it’s not. I hate to see women suffer and not enjoy their pregnancy or motherhood.”

Laurie enjoys helping people feel their best, whether in her chiropractic office or in her bridal salon. "That started from a love of people that came from my parents and God’s love for us. Church, faith, and my family have always been a huge part of my life. I feel like the luckiest girl alive when I go to work. I help people feel better so they can make a difference in their families and in the community. When you feel like you have a calling and impact like that, it compels you to be your best every day.”

Laurie has made it her mission to offer her support, time, and funding to programs such as Family and Youth Counseling, ABC Pregnancy Resource Center, and Hand-to-Hold. By shining a light on the needs in our community she has inspired many of her patients, friends, and colleagues to go out into our community, find what is lacking, and offer their own help. She lives her faith daily and is passionately dedicated to this community.

Favorite thing about SWLA: The culture and food.
Favorite place to go: Church. 
Favorite thing to do:  Walk her dog on Shell Beach Drive and along the lake.
Favorite SWLA food: Crawfish!
Favorite festival: Live at the Lakefront.

Selena Jo Cisneros, 38
Disaster Consultant & AECOM/Lead Project Manager, Hoffpauir Architects

Selena Cisneros came to SWLA in 2008 when she joined Hoffpauir Architects. She had first met James Hoffpauir in 2006, while working on various flooding disasters in Northern California. She was hired as the Lead Project Manager of a government contract to manage the recovery of Cameron Parish School Board facilities following Hurricane Rita. Next came a contract for Hurricane Ike recovery. Soon, what began initially as a temporary assignment led Selena to make Lake Charles her home.

Selena grew up in Wyoming and Colorado and earned a degree in Architectural Engineering from the University of Wyoming. Once settled in Lake Charles, she earned a master’s degree in Instructional Technology from McNeese State University. She joined AECOM, a global network of experts developing solutions to complex challenges throughout the world. Her highly-specialized skill set places her in high demand whenever and wherever disasters strike. Currently, she serves as Project Manager and Disaster Recovery Consultant for ongoing recovery efforts following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as flooding disasters in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Missouri, and North Dakota.

In an effort to grow roots in her new community, Selena has immersed herself in volunteer work. She has served in numerous capacities with the Women’s Commission, Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana, and as a volunteer judge for several scholarship organizations.

"My Catholic faith drives me to share my time, talents, and treasures. I have been very fortunate to have positive, professional, and influential mentors that have shared their education, experiences, and time with me and encouraged me to always be the best person possible, in all situations.”

Favorite thing about SWLA: Southern hospitality and sunny days! 
Favorite place to go: The downtown dog park or any downtown restaurant.
Favorite thing to do: Attend concerts and events downtown and at the casinos.
Favorite SWLA food: Boiled shrimp and crawfish. 
Favorite festival: Mardi Gras of Southwest Louisiana.

Amy Peck, 37
Engineering Analyst, Cheniere Energy, Inc.

Amy, a Southeast Texas transplant who has called Lake Charles home for many years, has been promoted throughout Cheniere Energy, Inc. and currently works with Engineering and Production teams as well as External Communications. Formerly, she was an English teacher and graduated with her degree in English Education from McNeese State University. When she left the teaching field, she knew she wanted something to fill the void that teaching brought, as it enabled her to make a difference. She now serves on various community boards within Cheniere Energy, Inc.

She also loves to participate in community activities. Amy was named Philanthropist of the Year in 2017 by the Family and Youth Counseling Agency. She frequently volunteers with Abraham’s Tent, The Literacy Council, and The Oasis Women’s Shelter. Amy’s faith drives her to succeed. There have been times when just doing enough to get by has been really tempting, but the work of the cross and the hope that Christ is glorified through her drives her to do her best.

Favorite thing about SWLA: The people! Her Southwest Louisiana friends have become a family, and are a wonderful, eclectic group who range in age from 20-70, from all races and religions.
Favorite place to go: Gigi’s Downtown. She loves a great workout in the cool, downtown atmosphere—not to mention the food at Fitness One Stop!
Favorite thing to do:  She loves to go to Saturday Brunch and spend the rest of the afternoon working in her yard.
Favorite SWLA food: Blue Dog Café’s Crawfish Enchiladas.
Favorite festival: Arts and Crabs Festival.

Blake Brignac, 34
Financial Advisor, Merrill Lynch

Having only lived in Southwest Louisiana for five years, Blake Brignac is a relative newcomer to the area, but he’s hit the ground running and fully immersed himself in work, community service, and leadership in his new home. Originally from Ascension Parish, Blake attended LSU where he studied dairy foods and human resource education and met his future wife Kelli, a Lake Charles native. After college Blake worked for Kraft Foods in Chicago and supported new product development. 

In 2013, Blake married Kelli, made Lake Charles his home, and began working for Merrill Lynch. Blake surged in his new career, earning numerous accolades and his Certified Financial Planner Designation, one of the industry’s highest honors, in only two years. "The skill set I developed interfacing with clients at Kraft, coupled with my background in analytics, made financial advising a natural fit for me,” Blake said. He has quickly risen to the top at Merrill Lynch, becoming one of the top performers in the State of Louisiana in his new advisor class. 

After joining Fusion Five, Blake helped grow membership beyond 230 members, served on the Executive Committee, and currently serves as President of Fusion Five. He is also very active in his church, St. Martin de Porres.

Blake is dedicated to his family. He and his wife have a daughter and a baby on the way. "I want this community to make them proud. I want them to have the opportunity to do whatever makes them happy, without limits, in our area.” 

Favorite thing about SWLA: The close-knit community.
Favorite place to go: The Children’s Museum with his daughter.
Favorite thing to do: "Anything that I can do with my whole family - whether that’s staying in and cooking dinner or going to a community event.” 
Favorite SWLA food: Crying Eagle’s new IPA and Tony’s Special from Tony’s Pizza.
Favorite festival: Winter Beer Fest and Mardi Gras. His daughter loves parades!

Devin Morgan, 31
Exhibit Coordinator, Imperial Calcasieu Museum

Devin Morgan’s love for the arts and a desire to see a thriving cultural scene in Southwest Louisiana keep him charging forward with an unmatched work ethic that can only be described as "ferocious.” He was born in Lake Charles, attended St. Louis Catholic High School, and enrolled at McNeese State University to study print making. Devin’s education in the arts at McNeese far exceeded a training in his chosen craft. He also became well-versed in community building and volunteerism when he became involved in the McNeese Student Art Association. 
"At the time, the arts community seemed small, and as an artist I experienced first-hand the difficulty of promoting and selling your artwork and making art events successful and sustainable,” Devin said. 

Devin began promoting exhibit openings and sharing tips and resources with budding and student artists in the community to help grow events and connect artists to patrons. While other college students spent their free time socializing, Devin spent his helping fellow artists create their work. "I was always volunteering to help fellow students matte, frame, or prepare artwork to sell and present at events.”

Devin followed his passion for the arts and community development with an internship in the Abercrombie Gallery at McNeese and later as the Gallery Coordinator at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, where he works today. He is a recipient of the Nowell Daste Award.

In 2017, Devin was awarded the prestigious Mayor’s Arts Awards Keystone Award for his dedication to building a strong arts and cultural community. "We should all do our part by volunteering a bit of our time and money, if we are able, and support organizations, small businesses, and artists in our area. Our diverse community here in SWLA makes us a truly unique location, and if we support one another we will thrive and prosper.”

Favorite thing about SWLA: Festivals & Mardi Gras.
Favorite place to go: Crying Eagle Brewery. 
Favorite thing to do:  Hanging out downtown.
Favorite SWLA food: Gumbo.
Favorite festival: Chuck Fest.
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