New Board Members & Community Impact Highlights of Annual Meeting

New Board Members & Community Impact Highlights Of Annual Meeting

United Way of Southwest Louisiana’s Leaders & Legends applauded donors and sponsors that make the work happen

United Way of Southwest Louisiana team members at the Annual Meeting

LAKE CHARLES, LA, February 27 – At its Annual Meeting, Leaders & Legends, United Way of Southwest Louisiana appointed ten board members, including officers. It announced nearly $4.1 million raised for investments supporting partner agencies, collaborations and Initiatives in the five-parish region. 

During the meeting, ten board members were appointed to serve new and/or renewed terms, bringing the total board membership to a diverse group of 25 of our region's community volunteers. They include:

  • Wendy Aguillard, Calcasieu Parish Assessor  
  • Paige Clayton, Pro Waste Environmental  
  • Greg Defrates, Firestone Polymers  
  • Tanya Gaudet, Jeff Davis Parish School System  
  • Tonya Griffith, Wells Fargo Advisors  
  • Tony Guillory, Louisiana Policy Jury Association  
  • Devon Hyde, Lake Charles Memorial Health Systems  
  • Nate Keller, Ward 3 Marshal  
  • Kevin Lacy, Investar Bank  
  • Debra Lastrapes, Retired, Calcasieu Refining  
  • Marcie Michalko, Westlake Corporation  
  • Patricia Prebula, Prebula Public Relations & AdSource  
  • Joe Robinson, Ingevity  
  • Mike Solari, Mike Solari Company  
  • Scot Tyler, Phillips 66  
  • Tony Wood, LyondellBasell

The Executive Board was also announced and included:

  • Gregory P. Thibodeaux, Turner Industries - Chair  
  • Stephen Dwight, Calcasieu Parish District Attorney - Vice Chair  
  • Kirk Pellerin, Sabine State Bank - Vice Chair  
  • Boyd Boudreaux, The Evangeline Bank & Trust Company - Treasurer  
  • James McGee, Calcasieu Parish DA's Office - Secretary  
  • Missy Amidon, CITGO Petroleum Corporation - Member At Large  
  • Keith Faul Retired, LyondellBasell - Member At Large  
  • Floyd Mitchell, Chemical Waste Management - Member At Large  
  • Leona Fletcher, Rain Carbon Inc. - Past Chair  


Following the invocation by Pastor Jeremy of Christian World Church and the presentation of the colors by the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Honor Guard, Mr. Chilton "Bud" Harless of the American Legion Post 1 led the Pledge of Allegiance. Harless, a Korean War Veteran, is 91 years young and has been a member of the Post for more than 37 years. The Iowa High School Band followed him with the National Anthem.

United Way of Southwest Louisiana's President and CEO, Denise Durel, gave examples of the work done during 2022 with the help of donors and sponsors in the room. 

  • 10,499 applications were processed for utility credits during the summer heat wave
  • Summer of Service teen volunteers worked at all senior centers
  • Case management portfolio now includes Emergency Rental Applications for CPPJ and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for DCFS
  • Build Back the Block is a new Initiative putting roofs over working families with insurance problems after the storms

United Way helplines saw increases.

  • Crisis Chat Online increased by 70%
  • Calls to 211 for Crisis help increased by 50%
  • Teen text hotline increased by 31%
  • The overall total of individuals served by 211 since inception in 2017 is now at 170,831.

Durel described the ability of United Way of Southwest Louisiana to pivot when a situation clearly requires it and how the team never steps back. However, the focus and goal are still on moving families and individuals toward self-sustaining and successful ways of life. "We believe no one wants to live a life where they need to run around looking to put a temporary fix on an emergency day in and day out. It's extremely stressful."

Outgoing Board Chair, Leona Fletcher of Rain Carbon, shared, "your United Way never stops searching for new ways to collaborate when it's time to solve a problem or raise their hand when they have a solution to offer, no matter how hard the work may be."

Outgoing Campaign Chair, Gregory Thibodeaux, shared with the audience, "we know there is more work to do, and we know when community members and leaders need help, they will continue to call on United Way for advice, help and solutions. Together, because of your support, we will be there to answer the call."


  • Corporate Pride Award - Calcasieu Refining Company
  • Spirit of SWLA - Lorena Ceasar, Customer Service Manager for Entergy Louisiana
  • Employee Campaign Chair - Jessica Olsen, Community Relations Advisor for CITGO Petroleum Corporation
  • Volunteer of the Year - Barry Brown, Market President for Red River Bank
  • Jim Leigh Award - Health Campaign Division Co-Chairs: Janie Fruge and Matthew Welsh of West Cal Cam Hospital and Devon Hyde of Lake Charles Memorial Health System

Photos of the event can be found online. Or by contacting United Way.

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About United Way of Southwest Louisiana

Working with the community and many partners for 83 years, United Way of Southwest Louisiana tackles the critical human services issues facing our five-parish footprint of Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis. Our United approach is changing the odds for all children, families and individuals in the community so that we all have the opportunity to succeed. Learn more about our life-changing work at and follow us on social media @UnitedWayofSWLA

- Operating in the TOP 9% of all U.S. United Ways. –TOP 125 out of 1185 United Ways!
- Maintains a 4-STAR charity rating with Charity Navigator and a PLATINUM SEAL OF TRANSPARENCY with Candid (formerly GuideStar)
- Mackenzie Scott Recipient (1st year, member of the original #UNITEDWAY46)
- LEPA Award Winner 2022 from Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for Outstanding Service
- Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration