by Angie Kay Dilmore
photography by Shonda Manuel
By the time people reach their 30s, they are officially all grown up; but the foundation of who they are today began during childhood. The seeds of patterns, preferences, and personalities were sown. Lessons learned from parents and teachers influenced the principles they hold dear as adults. So this year, our Thriving 30-Somethings theme showcases the early years of our winners. Childhood can never be relived, but the spirit of who they once were reminds us of just how far these community leaders have come.
Aryca Bussell graduated from Bridge City High School in Texas in 2009 and majored in General Studies Lamar University for two years. She completed her education at Stage One Hair School in 2012, graduating the day before her wedding. She began work at Bauhaus Salon as an apprentice and has worked her way up to master stylist over the past ten years.
Aryca says a key to her success is her love of “a little friendly competition.” When she moved to Lake Charles, she didn’t know a single person. “I had to be my best and hit the ground running when I finished school. I didn’t want to waste any time sitting around. We set goals at the salon and I love being challenged.”
As a child, Aryca was outgoing, loving, and compassionate. “I always had a group of friends over. It was never a dull moment in my life. I was always the jokester and loved making people smile. I knew I was going to make an impact no matter what I was doing.”
This busy wife and mom volunteers her time to several local organizations. “I love making people happy and seeing their smiling faces. We only have one life to live and if we don’t show compassion and love to our community, it will fall.”
Aryca says her heart for people was influenced by her mother, who gave of her time and resources as much as she could, and her Aunt Scharlene. “She was always doing her best and strived to be 100%. Nothing ever got in her way and she got what she wanted. She came, she saw, she conquered.” Aryca is also inspired by actress Reese Witherspoon. “She’s involved in so many charities and is all about giving back and teaching her children to give back.”
“I love to be involved with the community,” Aryca continues. “I’m all about picking up people when they are down or in need. Just knowing I’m making a difference keeps me going. I love helping and being there for others. It’s a part of my job. I may be a hairstylist, but I’m a hairapist, too! Making a difference is my calling.”
Aryca lives in Lake Charles with her husband Weston, their children Ellie and Koy, and an Irish Doodle named Sadie.
I was the yearbook editor my senior year in high school. I raised enough money for an all-color annual – only the second time in Bridge City High School history – despite Hurricane Ike destroying my town that year. And I gave all my high school gowns to a charity for girls whose families didn’t have money for prom dresses. Why not let someone else have that energy or vibe on their special night?
Dr. David S. Chang was born in Lafayette, Indiana and grew up in the Midwest, primarily the Indianapolis area. His parents are Taiwanese-American immigrants – his father a retired Industrial Engineering professor and his mother a retired radiation oncologist. “You could say that the latter had a big influence on me as I eventually went into radiation oncology myself!” he says.
Dr. Chang’s early education was unconventional, to say the least. This child prodigy learned from a young age in highly accelerated programs. He skipped multiple grades and took the SAT when he was nine years old. At age 12, he began undergraduate studies at Purdue University and graduated at age 15 with a degree in molecular biology. He earned a master’s degree in molecular biology at age 19 and attended medical school at the University of Louisville School of Medicine when he was 20. “I got into college before actually finishing high school, which put me in the odd situation of having a BS, MS, and MD but no high school diploma or GED.” His residency training took place at Indiana University School of Medicine, and Dr. Chang is a board-certified radiation oncologist.
Interestingly, Dr. Chang came to Lake Charles in part due to a hurricane. “During my final year of residency training I had arranged several job interviews in Boston, Massachusetts. At that same time, Hurricane Sandy hit Boston and cancelled my job interviews. I then got a phone call from Todd Hebert who was and still is the clinic manager for CHRISTUS St. Patrick Regional Cancer Center. I came down here for an interview and was impressed by the personality and teamwork of the group of people that I work with to this day. I have been in the same clinic since September 2013. We became Ochsner affiliates in 2018 but are basically the same clinic.”
“I am motivated to practice radiation oncology by my experience working with cancer patients and caregivers,” he continues. “Cancer remains one of the top three causes of death along with heart disease and COVID-19, and everyone knows friends and family members who have suffered from cancer. My career goal is to improve the breadth and quality of cancer services in small-market areas such as Southwest Louisiana, given that we do not have the population or resources of a metropolis like Houston or New Orleans.”
Dr. Chang volunteers with the SWLA Arts and Humanities Council and is a strong supporter of local art and culture. He lives in Lake Charles with his wife, Claire, a local independent artist.
My dad is a private pilot, and when my brother and I were young we would occasionally pile into a rental Cessna for the “$100 hamburger” – flying off to Muncie or Valparaiso or some other small airport in Indiana as a lunchtime trip. I would often fly along with my dad, and at age 19 I obtained a private pilot’s license. In recent years I have not kept my flying skills current, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for aviation.
Born in Lake Charles, Charlie Hunter and his family moved to Grand Lake when he was in early elementary school. After high school, he attended McNeese State University and graduated with honors and a BS degree in Criminal Justice/minor in Sociology. While in college, Charlie worked at Johnson Funeral Home. “Originally my plans were to become a teacher and a coach. But while working at the funeral home, I spent countless hours with then Chief Investigator Zeb Johnson, owner of the funeral home. Zeb shared his love for forensics and the Coroner’s Office. As I spent time with Zeb and the families who had been through these tragic events, my interest in the Coroner’s Office grew. In 2004, I accepted an internship with the Coroner’s Office and saw first-hand all the job entailed. I traveled to death scenes and worked alongside law enforcement, first responders, emergency medical services, and hospital staffs. I learned the impact an investigator can have both on the investigation as well as the families affected. Zeb and current Coroner Dr. Terry Welke shared their knowledge and passion for their job. My love for forensics and the Coroner’s Office triggered my desire to become an investigator. I was hired as an investigator in 2006. In 2015, I was promoted to the position of Chief Investigator and in 2017, I assumed the role of Director of Operations. This job is not about money or a title, but about the families that have suffered a tragedy. I love being able to support individuals in our community and provide answers that may otherwise remain unknown.”
Charlie says charity work is in his nature. At the Coroner’s Office, he has ample opportunities for volunteerism that benefits the community. He says the work he is most proud of is his involvement with the Southwest Louisiana Safe Sleep Task Force. “A group of local leaders met years ago to review cases in Southwest Louisiana which lead to the death of children. They discovered the leading cause of infant deaths was an unsafe or improper sleeping environment. Nationally, Louisiana ranks third highest in this category and Southwest Louisiana was highest for our state. I was selected to the Executive Committee of the task force and helped start our safe sleep education program. My work at the Coroner’s Office has been more about trying to save lives than investigate deaths.” Charlie is also often found speaking and supporting events for suicide awareness, drug awareness, diabetes awareness, and much more. “My job and volunteer work has allowed me to meet and impact countless others.”
In his youth, Charlie was active in school activities and athletics.
He played varsity baseball and basketball in high school and graduated with honors and the TOPS scholarship. “I was raised to respect others and the old saying ‘treat others as you want to be treated.’ I learned to help and be there for others and to set an
example for those around me. My mother has always been a driving force in my life. I’ve been blessed with an amazing family and God in my life.”
Even as a child, I wanted to help others. I could talk to anyone in any situation. I never dreamed of a job in this field but looking back, I can see how I got here.
Dr. Lyle Stephenson grew up in Southwest Louisiana and graduated from Sulphur High School in 2003. He attended LSU in Baton Rouge, and majored in Biochemistry, with a minor in Chemistry, followed by medical school at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. He completed a pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital at LSUHSC-Shreveport in 2014.
Dr. Lyle says he became a physician because he had a strong interest in science and felt medicine offered the best way to help people. “My passion for caring for others has always driven me. Going into medical school, I knew I wanted to help people, but didn’t know in what capacity. Since discovering pediatrics, I strive to help kids in everything I do. I believe that we should all be working to make the world a better place not only for my kids, but for their classmates, neighbors, and kids all over the world. My favorite thing to do is to take care of children, share with parents how the body works, and be there as kids grow up. I am also passionate about educating future health care providers. I have taken on more than 50 nurse practitioner students from multiple universities since beginning my private practice in 2014. In 2019, my students from McNeese honored me as Outstanding Preceptor for my work in educating the Nurse Practitioner students.”
In high school, Dr. Lyle was involved in service organizations, most notably Key Club. “That’s where I first learned what service meant to my life, as well as what it could bring to others. My wife is my biggest inspiration for serving others. She is a high school teacher and is always willing to help the community, her students, and her coworkers. There are times when she pushes me to help others, and I’m much better having her around as inspiration.”
Dr. Lyle lives in Carlyss with his wife, Theresa, and their two boys, Ethan (12) and Nicholas (8). In his spare time, he likes to hang out with family, travel, and watch baseball, especially the Astros.
I remember either being at school or outside. School always came easily, so I would occasionally be in trouble for acting out when I was bored. My mother always told my teachers that they could discipline me however they needed, including swatting me on the back of the head; and my teachers would take her up on that, when I deserved it. There are still days when I “act up” that remind me of the things I got in trouble for as a child. I was always known as the smart kid. I think that child who knew his stuff in school, but could still have fun, made me into the pediatrician I have become.
Kelly Petross was born in Lafayette, La. and has lived in Sulphur, La. since she was two years old. She attended McNeese State University and graduated with a degree in Secondary Math Education and a Minor in French. Her early jobs include cashier, bank teller, and student tutor, all of which helped her realize she did not want to work evenings or weekends. So, she became a teacher, not knowing that’s when teachers catch up on or get ahead for their classes. Kelly is also an Educational Services Representative with Usborne Books & More.
Kelly served on Student Councils from grades 6 – 12 and has been Sulphur High’s Student Council advisor for 16 years. She says young adults and children are our future. “As the Student Council sponsor, the future leaders at Sulphur High have been exposed to first-class keynote speakers, have opportunities to meet other student leaders from around the state and country (starting those networking skills early) and inspiration to grow their leadership skills. Sulphur High Student Council has held multiple District, State, and Southern offices over the years. Many of my former Student Council members and officers now hold leadership positions at their colleges and workplaces.” In 2016, Kelly was named the LASC Advisor of the Year and this past January, she was inducted into the LASC Advisor’s Hall of Fame – being the youngest advisor by 20+ year to be inducted – for her commitment and support to Student Councils.
An avid reader, Kelly joined Usborne Books & More eight years ago to grow her family’s home library and inspire a love of reading in her own girls. “Over the past three years, I’ve held various book drives and with the 50% match program with Usborne Books & More, over $15,000 in books have been donated to teachers and classrooms and nursing homes in Calcasieu Parish. My wish for the future is to be able to give every Kindergartener through 5th grader a new book at the beginning of each new school year.”
Kelly and her husband, Chad, have been married for 18 years and have two daughters, Andie (15) and Taylor (12).
Growing up, I was very competitive (sports and academics) yet considerate of others’ feelings and tried to live by the Golden Rule – treat others how you want to be treated. I love to win, but at the same time felt uncomfortable when the wins were lopsided.
Eloise was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her family moved to Lake Charles when she was six years old. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Louisiana State University, and in 2012, Eloise worked as a summer camp counselor for the Literacy Council of Southwest Louisiana, which sparked a passion for education and altered her graduate coursework plans. She earned a Master of Arts in Teaching and academically gifted certification from McNeese State University and currently teaches AP Psychology at Barbe and Sulphur High Schools.
In 2011, Eloise joined the Junior League of Lake Charles (JLLC) where she has served in various leadership roles. This year, she is the Executive Vice President/Managing Director. “I get to work with an outstanding team of women to develop our members and oversee the implementation of our various fundraisers and community projects,” says Eloise. “All funds raised by the JLLC benefit our various community programs and legacy of building a better SWLA.”
Eloise has a heart for volunteerism because her son, Henry, and her students fill her heart with joy and compassion for her community. “They bring so much joy to my life! I hope to cultivate a legacy and cycle of love and service.”
Eloise says she is inspired by her parents, Derek and Marianne Schierloh. “They worked diligently to build a beautiful life affording me with a Catholic education and modeled the importance of serving the community. My parents have lived all over the world and taught me to see the beauty in all cultures and perspectives. I hope to impart the same love and compassion I have been generously given to my son and students. To light the way for others is the highest honor, and I am tasked with that responsibility in my professional career and extracurricular activities. It has been a remarkable journey full of special memories, challenges, growth, and accomplishments.”
Because Eloise’s parents lived in locations around the world, she was afforded unique opportunities. For example, while living in Rio de Janeiro, and often noticed for her hair, she enjoyed a child modeling career and was once awarded the Brazilian Child Model of the Year. Eloise was a busy child, filling her time with reading, painting, drawing, dancing, playing sports, and more. She was named after the character Eloise in the book, Eloise at the Plaza. “Like the main character, as a child I was extroverted, precocious, and curious about the world, always on the hunt for an adventure.”
Eloise lives in Lake Charles with her husband, Daniel, and her son, Henry.
I was very serious about school, sometimes a little too serious. In first grade, my teacher asked me to monitor the class while she went to the restroom. I leaped on top of my desk and commanded everyone’s attention. There would be no mishaps on my watch! I have always been an educator at heart and loved to play the role of teacher.
This native Southwest Louisianan attended St. Louis Catholic High School and McNeese State University. She majored in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. Ryan’s career began as a marketing intern at McNeese and a radio personality at KZWA 104.9. Later, she served as a news content specialist for KPLC TV, and an account executive for the American Press. Over the years, Ryan realized she wanted to serve her community in a different capacity. “I began a new journey in human services to gain experience and knowledge by working in behavioral health as a wraparound facilitator at Choices Coordinated Care Solutions, and as a mental health specialist at Kingdom Expressions. I later earned a Master of Education in Counseling and Development from Lamar University.”
Currently, Ryan is a Provisionally Licensed Professional Counselor at Family & Youth Counseling Agency, Inc. She’s the co-founder of Pink Life, a non-profit organization that empowers single moms and adolescent girls with life groups, team building exercises and other self-improvement activities. Pink Life also offers a mentoring program called Pink Girls, designed to reach pre-adolescent girls ages 11-18 to improve self-esteem, social skills, and critical thinking. She also self-published a book entitled Victorious: The Journey of a Single Mom and Her Faith.
Ryan finds success by motivating others to set personal goals and reach their own full potential. “I truly enjoy helping others find their purpose and meaning in life. I’ve spoken to various groups of women and adolescent girls at conferences, small groups and schools about self-reflection, self-confidence, self-worth and empowerment. My personal motivation in life came from my parents. My mother instilled in me to ‘talk and walk with a purpose,’ and my father discussed the importance of being fearless and standing up for myself and what’s right. Christ was the foundation of our daily lives, and for me that meant that the way I treated others was a representation of my true relationship with Christ. I find fulfillment when I bring a positive and impactful change into someone’s life. I love working in the counseling profession and I enjoy changing the narrative and breaking the stigma of therapy.”
Ryan says that, as a child, she was a talker and labeled as bossy in school. However, she translated being bossy as being a leader. “I was always organized, neat, task driven and goal oriented in everything I did at home and school. My 5th grade teacher was impressed with my penmanship. She asked if I would write all the future assignments on the board for the year. I enjoyed order and structure and I needed to know ‘what’s the plan’ or ‘what are we doing.’ These same characteristics followed me into adulthood and have benefited my life greatly.
Productivity was very important to me as a child. I made my bed every morning because if I didn’t get anything else accomplished for that day, I knew when I came home, MY BED WAS MADE!
Brent Vest attended McNeese State University with intentions of going on to Physical Therapy school, but says that wasn’t God’s plan for his life; and he was always better working with his hands than taking tests. So he went to work for his father, a general contractor, and began a career building homes.
Brent says his goal-oriented, competitive nature has contributed to his success. “I was raised to be and do my best at everything I do. I’m motivated because I want to be able to provide my wife and kids the best life I can and be able to help people. The Lord calls us to love one another, so I help with any means He has given me. I believe the Lord has given me a gift of being a people-person and the ability to love people well. I am very extroverted and never meet a stranger.
International missions are a passion for Brent. He has been on mission trips to Nicaragua doing construction work on a church and orphanage; Syria helping refuges, and Suriname with his family assisting a church with its outreach
program. But he also serves the local community through VT Contracting. “We’ve provided construction work free of charge to families who had that need. We’ve raised money and donated Christmas presents for less fortunate families. After Hurricanes Laura and Ida, we made donations and took necessary supplies to those in need, offered brisket plate lunches at our office on Ryan Street, and gave a family a free roof replacement after Hurricane Laura.
Being in the construction
industry, we felt overwhelmed after
that storm. We felt torn between helping people and working for them. There were times we felt like we weren’t doing our best as we said yes too much because our hearts were bigger than our capacity to help with the circumstances at hand. We took on more work than we could handle, all while trying to deal with the damage to our own homes and businesses.”
Brent credits two mentors who invested their time and helped him as a young adult. “Jeff Huddleston was the associate pastor at a church I attended for 13 years. He held me to a higher standard in my relationship with the Lord and in my marriage. Garrett Ryder, a psychiatrist, also taught me a lot about the Lord, but more than anything, he taught me that men can be tough and still loving and caring with their families. Both men showed me how to be a great man and I will forever be grateful for their influence on my life.”
As a child, Brent says he loved to make people laugh. And he also appreciates the wisdom that comes with age and maturity. “ Learning from my past mistakes have been crucial, but my lovingness and sense of humor have always been here.”
Brent lives in Moss Bluff with his wife, LaVerne, and their three sons, the oldest age 16 and
As kids, Dad made sure we would grow up to be hard workers. If he didn’t have work for us to do, he would make us go outside and pick up sticks. I once got in a fight with a kid who was picking on me. My punishment when I got home was picking up sticks. Now, my own kids learn hard work by picking up sticks. Love you, Dad!
Ryan Terrell was born and raised in Moss Bluff and continues to live in this growing community north of Lake Charles. After graduating from Sam Houston High, he attended a semester at McNeese but quickly realized it wasn’t his calling. His father was a home builder and real estate investor, and as a child, Ryan would go to job sites with his dad and pick up sticks or sweep up the property for extra cash. “As I got older, Dad taught us more about what he did with real estate and taught us how to do basically every trade required to build a home, from prepping a site and pouring the slab to cabinets, floors, roofing and everything in between . . . and of course, picking up sticks.”
Ryan says that for as long as he can remember, he wanted to be “something” of his own doing. “I didn’t know what that meant for a long time, but I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. My drive comes from my responsibility as a husband and father to provide for my family, not only with money but with my time and effort that they deserve. The Bible has all kinds of instructions on how we are supposed to act as fathers and husbands, how to treat others, how we are supposed to treat the blessings that we receive from God and use them as a conduit to spread those blessing to others.
My mom and dad were great role models for me. Over the last couple of years though I feel I have struggled a lot with this.
As a homebuilder after the hurricanes, we were in a tight spot with our community. We were looked at to be the heroes for many people while having to be a hero in our own lives and with our own family struggles. I can’t count how many times I have told the office staff, ‘If you want grace, you have to give grace.’ These last two years have been tough in ways that only other contractors would understand, but me and my brother and co-owner at VT Contracting, Brent Vest, as well as the people in our office, have tried our best to keep our heads up and continue to do right by people regardless of the hurdles before us. So when others see me ‘thriving’ what they don’t see are the people who surround me, hold me up, and encourage me to continue to be better.”
Ryan lives with his wife, Taryn, and their four children.
All throughout my childhood my dad would always have these sayings, the most important of which is “you are not better than anyone and no one is better than you.” My dad instilling this in me is his legacy that I can now pass to my kids.
A native of Lake Charles, Hope graduated from Barbe High School in 2003, and attended Louisiana State University, earning a BA in Mass Communication (Public Relations) with a minor in Business Administration. She graduated from Southern University Law Center in 2010. After graduation, she was hired by the Calcasieu Parish D.A.’s Office. She has served in most of the divisions and is now the Section Chief of the newly formed Special Victim’s Unit, while also prosecuting all Severe Child Abuse cases. “Growing up, I watched my dad, Robert Wyatt, work as a prosecutor at the D.A.’s Office for almost 18 years before he was elected in 2003 as a judge in the 14th Judicial District Court. I often went to his office and witnessed his passion for victims of crimes and provide some closure for them. It’s rewarding to stand beside a victim, fight this fight with them, get them one step closer to healing from the trauma, and to protect our community.”
Hope volunteers with many local organizations through the D.A.’s Office, the SWLA Bar Association, and eight years with the Junior League of Lake Charles. Other community involvements include Lake Charles Pit Bull Rescue, Local Heart Foundation, and Girlie Girls Mentoring Program. “Everything I do, regarding my career, philanthropy, and achieving future goals, I not only do it for self-fulfillment, but also to teach my daughter that any goals she aspires to accomplish can be done with hard work, passion, and tenacity, and to always give back and do for others.”
Hope says she has seen her community change and grow during her lifetime, and she wants to see that trend continue. “We all want to see SWLA thrive and be a better place to live – for our children, our grandchildren, and our senior citizens. This can be done by volunteering, participating in local government and showing up when our parish calls on you.”
Hope says she had a great childhood. She was competitive, a social butterfly, and never missed a chance to be in the spotlight. “I watched my parents work one or more jobs at a time to achieve their goals. This gave me the drive and the persistence to achieve my success professionally and personally.” A childhood dream of Hope’s was to “wear a crown” one day. This goal is what helped her achieve many titles of local and state pageants. While participating in pageants, she was able to meet so many strong and powerful women. Pageants showed her the importance of supporting and learning from each of these women; how to accept and learn from rejection; gaining courage to go after what you want; and finally, self-discovery by teaching how to be a “Better You”!
Hope lives with her husband Jake and their daughter, Laney, age four.
A large part of my childhood was the time spent with the 20 plus kids on the street I grew up on – we were the Sarver Street Superstars! We had a clubhouse at the end of the street and played outside from morning until the streetlights came on. Today, I can say that most of these friends are still in my life.
Josh Robinson was born in Texas and raised in Northwest Louisiana. For most of his life, he called Shreveport/Bossier home and that’s where he got his start in the casino business. “My first job was through a staffing service working in the hotel at Boomtown Bossier City. I did literally everything through the years, from housekeeping, valet, front desk, you name it. Fast forward to today and I am now the Vice President of Marketing at L’Auberge Lake Charles. I never quite knew ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up’ until finding a home in this industry, thanks to many amazing co-workers and mentors over the years.”
Josh says he’s had opportunities to volunteer in many capacities for countless organizations. He is passionate about the American Cancer Society, where he has volunteered for 17 years. He raised over $50,000 in his first year for Real Men Wear Pink. He is currently Executive Chair for the SWLA Relay for Life. “Volunteering is important to me, and I will always do my best to help when and where I can.”
Josh is grateful for the many mentors he has had throughout his life, saying he’s learned much from the people around him and he takes every opportunity to say yes. But he credits his mother as making the greatest positive impact on his life. “She was one of the hardest working people I have ever known. We didn’t have much, but looking back, I always had everything I needed and most of the things I wanted because she worked SO hard. I can’t think of a time she ever missed work or didn’t find joy in what she was doing. As I have gotten older, I realize that my work ethic and passion that I put into things absolutely comes from her and the things she instilled in me along the way.”
Josh says he never imagined he’d be working in marketing. But he loves his career. “And I never would have found it if I had not said yes and stepped out of my comfort zone. Regardless of the heights you may soar, always remember where you came from, but never lose sight of where you want to go. One thing is certain, you will never get there alone. I am extraordinarily grateful for all the people who have taught me, guided me, and challenged me. There are many.”
Oh man, I am pretty sure I was a LOT! If that picture is an indication, I guess you could say I was always a little bit “extra.” There is so much of my childhood that has defined me. Ever since I was a little kid I would always find the positive in things and that’s something I carry with me to this day. My family would likely say I always needed to be the center of attention and while they may be right, I will certainly never admit it!
Grant Navarre began his career as a businessman in high school, where he was a porter, a service advisor, and Advocare salesman, which taught him at a young age how to run a business. He took some business courses at McNeese, but Grant’s success has primarily stemmed from hard work and hands-on experience. “I started selling cars when I was 18 years, which taught me how to serve my customers and my community. As a sales manager for Navarre, I learned how to manage and grow people,” he says. “My father (legendary Billy Navarre) taught me to compete with my own best self. I’ve taken this as my code of business. Every day, in every way, I try to get a little bit better.” Today, Grant is the Director of Navarre Auto Group, a real estate investor and developer, a youtuber, and business owner.
The fourth of six siblings, Grant has had several family members who’ve mentored him along the way. His mother taught him to have compassion. His brothers Ryan and Barrett taught him good real estate practices. Grant currently owns 65 rental units and acreage to build 120 more. He owns Navarre Ventures Property Development and is building 18 homes in a Carlyss subdivision. Grant’s father taught him the importance of accountability, community service, and not taking anything for granted.
Through Navarre Auto Group, Grant supports many local auctions and fundraisers. He sponsors several youth athletics. During times of natural disasters, he gathers and donates essential items, feeds the hungry, and coordinates with other organizations to positively impact the community. But the non-profit organization he is most passionate about is the American Cancer Society (ACS). “I’ve seen cancer and its ugly self up close and personal. I’ve seen what it does to the person with cancer and the emotional damage to the families involved.” Over the past seven years, Grant has raised over $350,000 to help the fight against cancer. He’s been number two in the nation out of 3,500 candidates for Real Men Wear Pink for the past three years, and is the largest solo ACS fundraiser in the state of Louisiana for the past five years. “My slogan for all my charitable works is, ‘Together we make the difference.’”
My father often told what we call, “The Lawn Mower Story.” When I was nine years old, he bought me my first lawn mower, and not the self-propelled type. In mowing our fairly large property, I ran out of gas. I did all the steps he showed me to fill it back up, but I didn’t understand I was supposed to prime it. I pulled the chord over and over again, but I couldn’t get it started. In my frustration, I kicked it and a piece of the lawn mower fell off. My father found me lying in the grass next to the broken lawn mower. He gave me every opportunity to lie. Did I hit the fence? Did I put my foot on it while trying to crank it? I just told the truth – I kicked it. Dad loved to tell that story while teaching about accountability and honesty.
Kyle Mestayer was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. He graduated from McNeese State University with a Bachelor of General Studies. While attending McNeese, Kyle worked at Texas Roadhouse, where he discovered his passion for providing legendary customer service. “The mission of creating a legendary guest experience every day was something I enjoyed doing and was a great fit for my first job. It laid the foundation for what I knew I wanted my career to be like.” From there, Kyle began his career with State Farm Insurance, advancing from team member at Carl Vincent State Farm agency, to Southwest Territory agent intern, and finally to opening his own insurance agency in DeRidder, La. “My experience with State Farm helped me tremendously to develop as a professional. I didn’t know it then but my time as a State Farm agent was preparing me for what I’d be doing today.” Kyle currently serves as Assistant Vice President, Commercial Lender for JD Bank in Lake Charles. “It only took me 36 years but I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up, a commercial lender. I get to create partnerships with our local business owners and assist them with the financial needs of their businesses. Looking back I would have never imagined being a banker but now I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I’m grateful for the path that lead me to the career I enjoy today.”
Kyle says his community-mindedness has been inspired by his parents, who volunteered their time and talents. He recalls many instances when people would remind him of his father’s impact on their lives and strives to practice the best version of himself daily. “It’s about progress, not perfection,” he adds. His desire to share his own time and talents is driven by his faith. “We’re called to be the light and serve others with our God given abilities. In service, I find healing, humility, and joy. Participating with your passion enables your performance to be at its best.” Kyle says he strives to control two things every day – his attitude and effort – and trusting God’s will with what he can’t control.
Kyle and his wife Michelle live in Lake Charles, La. with their four children – Finn (9), Millie (6), Lucy (4), and their newborn Luke.
Music has always been a huge part of my life since the beginning. My mother subscribed to the Columbia House music service which exposed me to a wide variety of different genres. I can recall the excitement of getting our new box of CDs in the mail and immediately listening to them all. Today, I enjoy playing guitar with friends and being the DJ at my son’s baseball games. Music is a large part of who I am. Every day is a new song.