In any community, there are those humble souls who take the notion of the Good Samaritan to a higher level. With extraordinary love and care for those in need, they give of themselves quietly, tirelessly, and expect nothing in return. In this season of gratitude, Thrive magazine honors five individuals in Southwest Louisiana who exemplify these commendable character traits, in hopes their stories will encourage and inspire our readers to find their own ways to show kindness and compassion to others.
Willie Landry Mount, Active volunteer
Willie Landry Mount is most known for her public service, primarily as the first, and to date, the only female Mayor of Lake Charles (1993-1999) and as a Louisiana State Senator/District 27 for three terms. Prior to her years in public office, she worked as a licensed real estate agent for seven years before she owned and operated a successful small business for four years in Lake Charles. But now that she is “retired” she’s as busy as ever with a wide variety of volunteer projects, board activities, and fundraisers. “Growing up in a Christian home, my parents taught me and my siblings the importance of serving others,” Willie says. “Through their actions at home, work, at church, or in the community, we learned by their example of service.”
Willie is a graduate of Lake Charles High School and McNeese State University, where she earned a BS degree in Business Administration. She’s been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by McNeese State University, was a recipient of both the Distinguished Alumnus Award and the Distinguished Service Award from the McNeese Alumni Association, and has been inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame.
Willie has received awards from numerous community organizations, including the National Association of Social Workers, the Kiwanis Club, and the NAACP. She was honored as a Pinnacle Light of Hope recipient from Family & Youth Counseling Agency, received the Jack V. Doland Award from Women’s Commission of SWLA, the Louisiana Community Leader of the Year from Cenikor Foundation, and 2021 Civic Service Award from the Chamber of Southwest Louisiana.
Willie currently serves on the following boards: Library Board of Control for the Calcasieu Parish Public Library; Lakeside Bank; Lake Charles Country Club; Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana; Cenikor Foundation; McNeese State University Foundation; Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities; and Public Affairs Research Board.
Willie has embraced leadership roles as the presiding chair of the Library Board; president of the Boy Scouts of America – Calcasieu Area Council; chair of Convention & Visitors Board; chair of Louisiana Community and Technical College System Board of Supervisors.
Willie says that service to others is as much about receiving as it is giving. “When you serve others, you are engaged creatively, constructively, and productively. You get inner satisfaction and happiness in serving. There is something magical about being able to impact the lives of others in some small way.”
What drives Willie’s community involvement? “I love to see people succeed. I love seeing our community work together and find ways to bring that joy of life into our everyday lives. As we continue to serve others for the betterment of Southwest Louisiana, be kind and caring, share and make a difference in the lives of others!”
Listen to others, be kind, be tenacious, continue to serve, and keep God first in all you do.
-Willie’s late husband, Ben Mount
Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service . . . you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.
-Martin Luther King Jr.
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
-1 Peter 4:10
Celia Vincent Broussard, President of Southwest Call Center, Inc.
When Celia Broussard was growing up, her parents were active volunteers in their church, and she saw firsthand how people’s lives were improved through their efforts. In addition to church activities, her parents participated in several business organizations and supported Sowela Technical Community College by hiring their graduates and serving on committees. “Through their example, I learned that helping someone in need or providing support to community organizations makes a difference,” Celia says. “I wanted to do the same when I became an adult.”
Celia says when she moved out of town after high school, volunteering helped her to ‘plug-in’ and gave her a sense of belonging. “Coming back to Lake Charles in 2000 was no different. I believe supporting my SWLA community helps create an environment that allows individuals to grow and establishes a base from which they can participate and appreciate the melting pot of cultures that Southwest Louisiana is known for. Volunteering plugs me into the community and helps me feel like I am making a difference; no matter where I serve or what position.”
Celia has volunteered with several organizations, but three in particular have helped her feel that she’s made a difference: United Way, SWLA Chamber, and the Lake Charles Symphony. “During my time with United Way, I saw how various non-profits throughout the five-parish area identified a specific need within our community and provided a service that made a difference. It was heartwarming to hear and see how United Way provided support in our community.” At the SWLA Chamber, she volunteered on several committees and eventually served on the board of directors.
“Being a part of the efforts of the SWLA Chamber to create a dynamic and strong business community that is made up of diverse businesses who embrace new innovative industries taught me that taking on a challenge brings great rewards.”
“I’ve always loved music and even learned to play the flute in middle school, but I always felt that I didn’t understand it,” Celia says. “I gave up playing my flute a few years out of high school to focus on college and career.”
When a friend asked me to volunteer with the Lake Charles Symphony, I thought, why not? I attended my first Symphony concert at Rosa Hart Theater and was astounded at the quality of music I heard and knew that I wanted to learn more. By attending concerts, I’ve learned that symphonic music – classical, pops, and contemporary – is all around us. We hear it through movie theme songs, theatrical music, and popular music. And when you hear it in a symphony setting, you begin to appreciate just how complex music can be.”
Currently, Celia divides her volunteer efforts between the Lake Charles Symphony, Profit and Loss Association, and the SWLA Chamber.
Interested in experiencing the Lake Charles Symphony’s 2022/2023 concert season for yourself? Buy tickets by visiting www.lcsymphony.com or if you would like to volunteer, call the office at 337-214-6161.
Cindy Robertson, founder of Micah 6:8 Mission
Cindy Robertson’s passion for humanity and our planet finds numerous outlets to express itself. She is the founder of Micah 6:8 Mission, a volunteer non-profit that addresses critical issues such as homelessness, food insecurity and addiction in Portie Town (pronounced po-shay), a small community in northwest Sulphur. Each Sunday evening, Cindy and other volunteers host an event they call Levi’s Table and share a meal with 12-20 people in her front yard. And all are welcome. She says, “I was raised to share what I have with others, so I am not sure if there is a time when I didn’t help others in one fashion or another.”
Cindy has an undergraduate and master’s degree in sociology, as well as a PhD ABD in social work. She currently attends the Iona School of Ministry, a bi-vocational ministry training akin to seminary in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. As a student, she currently serves in a field placement at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Lake Charles.
She is also a contract employee for The Episcopal Church in Western Louisiana through a grant from Episcopal Relief & Development and serves as the Southwest Louisiana Disaster Coordinator. “We work with SWLA Responds and a variety of churches in the area and have provided roofs and repairs to numerous homes in the parish.”
Cindy is most passionate about creation care (environmental concerns and how we can be good stewards of our planet) and the issues we face in Louisiana as our climate changes. “Storms are getting stronger and more frequent, our summers are getting hotter, and in some instances our winters have been really cold! These changes may not be primarily caused by humans, but most assuredly humans are exacerbating the problem. I look at how this affects the community I serve, where people work, eat, and sleep outdoors. My efforts address the environment, health, hunger – it is all connected. All of it revolves around working to make our community a better place for all who live here.”
Because she is so compassionate and active in her community, many people are surprised to learn that Cindy is an introvert. “Being in community isn’t natural for me – it comes from my faith life. Christ was in community with all sorts of folks and God’s love is evident in the trinitarian revelation, so I am compelled to come out of my safe place (home) and serve others in love.”
If you are interested in contributing to Cindy’s mission, they welcome monetary donations and nutritious meals for Levi’s Table. They do accept food donations but have limited storage space. They also need volunteers to do public health surveys in West Calcasieu neighborhoods.
For more information or contact info, go to micah68mission.org.
Bishop Joseph L. Banks & Dr. Cathy S. Banks, Founders of Living Word Christian Center
Drs. Joseph and Cathy Banks founded Living Word Christian Center in Lake Charles in 2001. This ministry supports foreign missions as well as inner-city community development and enhancement. Together, the Banks serve the community of Southwest Louisiana in a wide variety of ways. They say, “We believe that as business owners and ministry leaders in this community one must give back of your time and talents if you want your community to prosper.”
Drs. Joseph and Cathy see first-hand the needs of varying demographics. “Seeing these needs ignited us to create year-round programs to serve our fellow SWLA families. There are many ways to serve one’s community like financial contributions to local charities which we commit to each year. But we feel that the hands-on approach of working side by side with the people of SWLA to enhance the quality of life here is the best way to be of service.”
Joseph earned a degree in Secondary Education from Southern University. He later earned a degree in Christian Theology. His early ministries included working with youth groups, prison ministries, cell groups, and inner-city street ministries. Joseph and Cathy both completed their Doctoral degrees in Divinity & Theology from Life Christian University near Tampa, Fl.
In 2019, Joseph was appointed as Bishop of Word Ministry Alliance. Joseph has also worked for the Calcasieu Parish School Board and is an educator and coach at Oak Park Middle School. In addition to their own ministry at Living Word Christian Center, Cathy runs several other businesses and non-profits to continually create volunteer opportunities for those who have a heart to serve this community.
Bishop Banks oversees churches in South Africa, Mexico, Ghana, Liberia, and in the United States. He regularly travels throughout America and internationally to preach and teach the gospel as a visionary who wants to bring about positive change. After Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020, Joseph and Cathy fed over 2000 families weekly from October 2020 through August 2021. Earlier this year, the couple traveled to Liberia where, in addition to ministering to communities, they conducted eye exams and distributed over 700 pairs of reading glasses.
The Banks are successful entrepreneurs and owners of Liberty Plaza Properties, a commercial real estate leasing business, and multiple non-profits. Their most recent endeavor is establishing a church, elementary through high school campus, and business incubator in Monrovia, Liberia. Joseph is an Executive Board member for the Alliance for Positive Growth and serves on the Mayor’s Advisory Board, where he helps bridge the gap between the faith community and government.
Other volunteer activities sponsored by Living Word Christian Center and Liberty Plaza Properties include:
Food drives and distribution center
Building supply distribution
Organizing debris removal teams & home/business restoration teams
SWLA Responds Coalition member
Summer youth camps
Second Harvest Food Distribution Center for CPSB Summer Feeding Program
Men’s monthly mentoring program – “Man-Up”
Living Word Christian Center is currently sponsoring an Interfaith Community Recreation Project with multiple organizations that serve senior citizens, youth and other faith-based groups who can share resources and benefit from affordable recreational activities for their constituents or congregations.
For more information on this project contact Dr. Joseph Banks at email@example.com.