Calm in the Storm: A Survivor’s StorySeptember 2023
Lake Area Industry Alliance Benefits SWLA SchoolsSeptember 2023
by Angie Kay Dilmore
This month we celebrate the Leading Ladies in Business as we shine a well-deserved spotlight on a group of remarkable women whose dedication and innovation have propelled their businesses and organizations to new heights.
These Leading Ladies are not just successful in the workplace; they are the embodiment of perseverance, vision, and passion. They’ve shattered glass ceilings, blazed the trail, and redefined the standards of excellence in every arena. Their journeys inspire, their accomplishments awe, and their stories resonate.
In a world where challenges are inevitable, these remarkable women have risen above them, forging their paths through determination, resilience, and a steadfast belief in their dreams. Their stories are not just tales of individual achievement; they are also powerful narratives of the potential within each one of us to make a lasting impact on the world around us.
Join us as we celebrate these women, not just for their remarkable success, but for the inspiration they provide to aspiring young women, their colleagues, and anyone with a dream to pursue.
Lisa Adams: Executive Director, Greater Beauregard Chamber of Commerce
Lisa Adams was born on the former Fort Polk to a young, single mother and raised by her grandparents in DeRidder, Louisiana. As a teenager, she always enjoyed working with children in her church and babysitting in her spare time. So, she attended Northwestern University and obtained early childhood credentials. She began working as an aftercare teacher and worked her way through the ranks, eventually becoming Executive Director of the childcare center where she worked, a position which she maintained for 17 years. After 25 years in early childhood care, Lisa took two years to be a stay-at-home mother. Later, she would take a job as the High-Set (GED) tester at Lamar Salter Technical College. “I was only in this position for six months but it was one of the most rewarding jobs,” Lisa says. “I was able to help those to whom life had thrown a curveball. They didn’t graduate high school but there were here now, taking the steps to obtain that diploma.”
In June of 2017, Lisa received a call about taking the Executive Director position at the Greater Beauregard Chamber of Commerce. “I accepted the position and quickly fell in love with working in and promoting my parish,” she says. “I love my home and I want to bring exciting things here. We may not have a big mall, or a bustling downtown but the quality of life can’t be beat. There is always something to do in Beauregard!” Lisa received her Institute of office Management Certification with the United States Department of Commerce at Loyola University in Los Angeles California in 2020.
Lisa’s goal is a simple one – to make everyone, businesses and individuals alike, to see what a hidden jewel Beauregard parish is. “We are a small town where neighbors help neighbors, doors are left unlocked, and a handshake is still considered a binding agreement,” she says. “I want my children, grandchildren, and future generations to be able to obtain good paying jobs here in our community. When meeting with potential clients, I often take them on a drive to showcase our town, meet the community, and explain that the people they hire will be loyal employees and will work for you until they reach retirement age. We are such a loyal, hardworking community.”
Reflecting on her childhood, Lisa feels gratitude for her mother and father. “I often think, it must have been hard in the 1960’s being an unwed mother and having the courage to allow your parents to adopt that child,” she says. “My daddy was retired military and was a handworker. He had 5 daughters and then adopted me. He never allowed anyone to question why he adopted me. I was his baby and he was my hero. He never met a stranger and was always willing to help others, in any way he could. He is the reason I am here today and made me the person I am.”
Lisa and her husband, Jody, are high school sweethearts who have been married for 32 years. They have three children, Allie (Seth), Lanie (Tyler), and Tanner (Avery) and three grandchildren Rhemi, Arden, and Kolter Cash with a fourth grandchild joining this fall. “My family is my most valued possession,” she says. “We enjoy spending time together, taking last minute trips and flea marketing. We look forward to sleepovers with the grandchildren most of all.”
- DeRidder Junior Woman’s Club
- 18th Annual Walk for a Cure
- Beauregard-Vernon Sunrise Rotary Club
Quote to Live By:
Given to her by her biological mother:
“You are somebody’s reason to smile.”
Jenny Bono: Joint Replacement Center of Louisiana, Administrator; Premier Clinical Partners, President/CEO
Originally from Cameron, La., Jenny Bono graduated from McNeese State University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. She later earned a Master of Business Administration, and in 2022, Jenny became board certified through the American College of Healthcare Executives. She’s held various executive positions over the past 18 years, mainly serving as Chief Financial Officer in the healthcare industry, and is currently the Administrator of Joint Replacement Center of Louisiana with the distinct privilege of developing an advanced outpatient surgery center in Lake Charles. “We specialize in total joint replacement surgery utilizing robotic technology and opened our doors in January 2023,” she says. Jenny is also the President/CEO of Premier Clinical Partners, a healthcare consulting agency specializing in private practice and rural health clinics nationally. “I believe healthcare is a calling and my positions have enabled me to be a part of the growth of community offerings over the years.”
Jenny says her career began by working for local CPAs through internships and then as a staff accountant following graduation. “I had the opportunity to work with healthcare clients and learn from the expertise offered at a local CPA firm. My desire to help people was combined with my passion for business development.”
“Over the years I have developed a passion for being a compassionate and driven leader who strives to grow both individuals and the community,” Jenny continues. “I’ve been fortunate to have great career mentors and coaches, and I’ve worked with and admired many women in my career. Seeing their strong will to lead successful organizations shaped the type of leader I desired to be, and I’m happy to continue the gift through mentoring young professionals in their careers now. I’ve also had an extremely supportive family and husband who has always understood my desire for continuous education and a strong work ethic.”
This work ethic spills over into Jenny’s penchant for community service. “Being raised in a small town provides you with the sense of community and my family has always been the type to lend a hand to those in need. My dad served on the Police Jury in Cameron after Hurricane Rita knowing he wanted to return to his hometown and be a part of the redevelopment. This ignited my desire to become more involved in our community.”
Jenny has served as Education Chair of the Louisiana Chapter of Healthcare Executives since 2020. She also volunteers with school events and her son’s teams. “Each volunteer role has provided opportunities to expand my network and knowledge of vital programs offered in our area.”
Jenny lives in Lake Charles with her husband, Steven, and their sons, Trenton and Brody. Most weekends you can find her watching Brody play baseball or watching football as a family in the fall.
Former volunteer activities:
- Family and Youth
- Fusion Five, Chair 2020-2021
- Susan G Komen SWLA/Acadiana.
Try not to become a person of success but rather try to become a person of value. -Albert Einstein
“Success can be measured in many ways,” Jenny says, “but adding value in relationships, personally and professionally is the highest achievement in my mind.”
Brook Hanemann: Banners at McNeese, Director
Brook Hanemann grew up in rural Tammany Parish in a home imbued with love and creativity – her father was an actor and her mother an accomplished writer. Brook’s childhood was immersed in nature, theater, dance and music. Funded by a generous but anonymous benefactor, Brook attended high school at the prestigious Saint Scholastica Academy, where she was further exposed to the arts and foreign languages. “Because of great parenting and philanthropy, I was a very, very poor child surrounded by absolute excellence and inspiration,” Brook says.
Brook also attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts for one year, after which her family moved to Florida where she went to public school and “learned the very big difference in educational resources between the haves and have-nots.” Which explains why Brook is so fervent about bringing the arts to underserved youth in SWLA.
Through continued support and scholarships, Brook earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Fine Arts from a competitive theatre program at the University of Central Florida. “Because of them, I have trained with masters in my field from around the world, traveled to study on faculty research grants to the Accademia dell’arte in Arezzo, Italy, and earned a PhD in Theatre History, Literature and Theory from LSU.”
Brook is now Director of Banners at McNeese State University and says she has “the actual BEST job that exists in SWLA.” Because of her own upbring, Brook works tirelessly to make the riches of education and the arts accessible to as diverse and vast a group as possible. “The arts are not a luxury. They create bridges, connect us, and celebrate our common humanity.”
On women: “I have great respect for women who empower other women…who celebrate…have a sense of humor…who compete with themselves, not other women…who don’t place their worth on their looks/youth/money/social circles…who make healthy boundaries…who fall down seven times and stand back up eight.”
On life-work balance: “I try to be good at that. How can anyone attain success? To attempt to be a magnificent mother, a tremendous wife, serve your community, expand your education, advance your profession, honor your spiritual path, take care of your body, champion your friends and create a warm and healthy home while remaining grateful and energized…these are hard to balance. The tasks women assume can be gargantuan. I believe we must strive to give ourselves love when we fail to achieve perfection.”
On volunteerism: “Volunteerism and service are twice-blessed. They benefit the receiver and the giver. I recall a particularly painful season in my life. Something told me I needed to do some volunteer work, so I signed up. That experience changed me. For those in pain, volunteerism/service to others are among the highest medicines I prescribe.” In addition to participation on numerous arts-related boards, Brook’s volunteer resume includes work with hospice patients, the elderly, youth, and the incarcerated.
Brook lives in Lake Charles with her husband, John Webb, and her daughters, Isabella and Sophia, who she says are “my masterpieces and the greatest work of my life.”
There is NO way into the universe except THROUGH the body of a woman. -John O’Donohue, Scottish philosopher, theologian, and poet
“How can we not honor ourselves, our sisters, our mothers,” Brook says, “when nobody gets to walk the earth before coming through us?”
Mindy Hetzel: Director, Philanthropy Program/Foundation at Ochsner American Legion Hospital
Mindy Hetzel attended McNeese State University and majored in Home Economic Business. “One of the most valuable lessons I received there came from Dr. Barbara Coatney, head of the Home Economics Department. “She emphasized that possessing this unique degree meant we could achieve anything we set our minds to. I’ve often reflected on her inspiring words,” says Mindy.
Upon graduation, Mindy married Glen Hetzel – a fourth-generation rice and cattle farmer in Hathaway, La. “I learned that being a farmwife/partner was a full-time commitment. However, it was equally essential for me to pursue my own career path.” Mindy joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture as Jeff Davis Parish’s Director of Meals on Wheels. “An eye-opening college experience in Belize revealed that similar nutritional needs existed right here in my community. This role taught me the importance of safeguarding our elderly.”
Five years later, Mindy pivoted her career to allow more time for motherhood. “I became a Freelance Home Economics/Consumer Educator. This opportunity allowed me to juggle what we call work-life harmony; balancing a career off the farm while dedicating time to motherhood, community service, and various leadership roles.”
Mindy became involved in the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation and the USA Rice Council, holding volunteer positions at the local, state, and national levels within both organizations. These were transformative years where Mindy and her family worked together to make a positive impact in their community. With support from other farm families, she co-founded the Louisiana 5-K Rice Run to promote National Rice Month. “As then-chairman of the National Rice Promotion committee, I initiated the Rice License Plate, proudly displayed on agricultural vehicles across rice-growing states.”
In 2012, Mindy joined Ochsner American Legion Hospital (Jennings American Legion Hospital at that time) with the mission of establishing a Foundation. “It became evident to me that agriculture and healthcare shared similarities in being underappreciated until needed. I developed an appreciation for the dedicated hospital workers who provide quality healthcare in our rural community. My mission was to share their incredible stories within our community.”
To date, the Foundation has raised over a million dollars, and all funds remain within the Jennings community. Last year, OALH became the first hospital in Louisiana to promote early brain development through a Brain Bag initiative, which focuses on early intervention and educating parents on the brain-building benefits of interacting with infants and young children. “Supporting childhood development is an investment in our community’s future,” Mindy says. This year, the Foundation plans to create a butterfly garden to provide a peaceful spot for families and staff to gather.
The Hetzels have three children: Benjamin and wife Chelsey; Lacey and husband Rudy Austin; Will and wife Hannah; and four grandchildren. Much of her spare time is spent watching her grandchildren in rodeo competitions. Mindy also plays tennis and volunteers.
Past Volunteer Activities and Awards:
- Louisiana Farm Bureau Women’s Committee, Chairman
- Louisiana Young Farm Women of the Year
- Louisiana Discussion Winner, reaching the National Discussion meet finals
- 1987 Top 15 Notable Farm Women in the U.S. and Canada by Farm Women Magazine/Progressive Farmer
It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving. -Mother Teresa
“It’s the small acts of kindness that make the most significant difference,” Mindy adds.
Michelle McInnis: Senior Vice President, SWLA Economic Development Alliance
A life-long resident of Moss Bluff, Michelle McInnis earned a B.S. degree in Business Management/Marketing from McNeese State University with a minor in Psychology. She began her career by combining her love of reading with a love of children and became a children’s librarian for the Calcasieu Parish Public Library (CPPL). After 10 years with CPPL, Michelle moved on to the non-profit sector for another 10 years before landing at the SWLA Economic Development Alliance. She currently serves as the Senior Vice President of the Alliance and oversees events, workforce development, Leadership Southwest and the Alliance Foundation. She is a graduate of the Leadership Southwest Class of 2013 and Leadership Louisiana Class of 2021.
Michelle credits her career success to living a life of integrity and serving others. “It’s something our family practices in our work and home life. Giving your best, being dependable, reliable, and productive is what our world needs. Being an informed citizen, involved in decisions that make our community a better place should drive us all! I know it’s cliche’, but we can sit in the shade today because someone planted a tree a hundred years ago!
Her other career pro-tip? Surround yourself and aspire to be among women who build up and empower other women instead of tearing others down. “Having a tribe of women who share my beliefs, ambitions, and values is such a blessing and I have the best tribe! Women are often put in positions to fight for everything they need, and when we have the opportunity to build each other up, mentor and support other women, we should all take that as a privilege and honor. We should all know our worth and not be afraid to walk away when we are not being valued. This is something my 90-year-old grandmother inspires me to practice and share with my daughter and others around me.”
Michelle says her love of community was established at an early age and inspired by her parents who involved their children in their volunteer efforts. “Using my God-given talents to serve my community is a priority in my life,” she says. “Serving others at church and in my community and giving back to make my community a better place for me and my family is what drives me.”
Michelle lives with her husband George. The couple have four children and two grandbabies, Owen and Evelyn.
- The Children’s Museum of Southwest Louisiana, Board of Directors
- Calcasieu Parish Public Library, Board of Control
- Moss Bluff Civic Club
- Community Chest of Moss Bluff
- SWLA Safe Sleep Task Force, Board member and safe sleep advocate
- Moss Bluff Economic Development, Board President
- Workforce Investment Board
- ICSHRM, Board of Directors
- National Association of Leadership Programs, Board of Directors
Favorite Words to Live By:
In a world where you can be ANYTHING, be kind.
“This world would be a different place if everyone practiced this!” Michelle says.
Angela Queenan: Global Crane & Rigging, Vice President
Angela Queenan was raised in Oklahoma and graduated with an Industrial Engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma. She started working for Conoco (now Phillips 66) as a Project Engineer intern and then accepted a job with them building pipelines, product terminals and later, convenience stores. She transferred to the Lake Charles Refinery in 1993 and thought she’d be here two to three years before being transferred to her next assignment. But as fate would have it, she met Keith, her husband of 28 years, and decided to stay in Lake Charles. She was promoted to Supply Chain Manager and then Plant Manager at the Conoco Lubricants Plant. Angela took an early retirement to help grow Global Crane & Rigging, a mobile crane service company she and Keith started, and now serves as Vice President overseeing finance, accounting, and regulatory issues. “However, when you have a family business, all issues from Insurance to scheduling become joint issues,” she says. In addition to running their business, Keith and Angela enjoy spending time with their three children and three grandchildren.
Angela says one of the things she learned from her time at Conoco was how to challenge people and bring them out of their comfort zones. “Challenging someone almost always translates into them being more fulfilled in their job because they are proud of their accomplishments. We should encourage people to take the baby steps to get started. That’s what it takes to impact and make changes in our community – everyone doing their small part. The only way the community improves is by pulling up those who don’t have the same opportunities or blessings that we have. I’ve discovered by watching how local initiatives unfold, the impact that one person can have when they believe in something.”
Ann Polak did her “small part” and made a big impact on Angela. “She was Executive Director when I was on the Board of the Women’s Shelter almost 25 years ago. She had so much emotional intelligence. She knew when to be firm with someone and when to let something slide. I also had a manager, Dale Logan, who was pretty laid back by Conoco standards. He showed me that you could be hard on a problem, but still go easy on the people and make them feel valued.”
Angela has participated in numerous community activities and boards. “I couldn’t be this involved without the support from my husband who’s always willing to lend a hand with whatever fundraiser/activity/initiative I have going on at the time. I also have a very strong friend group who is constantly supportive, but also honest and down to earth. I learn from them every day.”
Current Volunteer Efforts:
- McNeese Foundation, President
- SWLA Youth Foundation, Past-President
- Calcasieu Soccer Club, Treasurer
- Chamber SWLA, Board member
- Community Foundation of SWLA, Board member
Favorite Words to Live By:
“There will always be someone who expects you to be perfect by their standards. Don’t listen to them judge. It’s important to be open minded to others’ ideas, but in the end, do what you think is right and spend time on what you know is right.”
Wendy Stine: Stine, LLC, President
A DeRidder native and the oldest of six children, Wendy Stine graduated from McNeese State University with a degree in Marketing and is a third-generation member of her family business. “I grew up working directly in our stores and have 35+ years in the business,” she says. “As my career started, I had the privilege of learning the value of work from my dad, who managed our DeRidder location at the time. Eventually, I took over as manager and ran that store for several years. In 2011, I relocated to our corporate office in Sulphur where I was blessed to work alongside five uncles in the business and learned different skills and values from each one.”
Wendy started work at the office as a corporate buyer, then moved to Director of Merchandising. In 2021, she was named President of the company. “I am a very competitive person and have always set high standards for myself,” she says. “Success is hard work, and I am always striving to achieve it. Outside of that, I always want to be a great role model for my children, and I hope and pray I have done just that.”
Ever-inspired by working mothers, Wendy admits it’s a struggle for working moms to find balance between work and family. “Many moms battle with themselves in finding time to devote to their careers in order to be successful but also in finding that much needed quality time for their children and family. Family is very important to me, and one of my many regrets is that I was not always able to be there for my own children.”
“As a company, one of our core values is ‘Community’ and the importance of making a positive impact upon the communities we serve,” Wendy continues. “My grandparents firmly believed in giving back, and that is one of the many values they passed on to their children and grandchildren. Throughout my career, I have managed special projects for the company such as the Hurricane Maria U.S. Virgin Islands Rebuild Program, as well as hurricane projects here in Louisiana. At Stine, we try to do as much as we can in giving back to our communities, both monetarily and community involvement.”
Wendy has served and continues to serve on several boards that promote better communities. “I have recently become very passionate about helping with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Our children rely on us to look after them and no child asks to have cancer, but with help from St. Jude’s, families can focus on helping their child through this horrific time.”
Wendy says she raised her three grown children much like she was raised — to be independent. “They are what keep me grounded and are the light of my life and I am extremely proud of their accomplishments.”
Favorite Words to Live By:
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
“I end all of my meetings with this quote in hopes that people realize that the world can be cruel sometimes,” Wendy says, “but a simple smile or kind word can make a huge impact on someone’s day.”
Velika Trahan: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Strategic Account Manager
Velika Trahan was born in Galveston, Tx. Her family moved to Baton Rouge where she graduated from Broadmoor Sr. High School. While attending LSU, Velika says she wanted to major in Kinesiology with hopes of becoming an occupational therapist. “However, some detours occurred so change had to happen which moved me on a different path,” she says. “I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix in Information Technology with a minor in Networking.”
Velika’s first real job was in retail, where she learned how to work with people and the value of being able to connect with people. She continued her education and obtained her Master’s in Business Administration, which facilitated her move into the Sales and Marketing Department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana in 1997. Velika transferred to Lake Charles in August 2007 to work as an account manager. “My current job title is listed as Strategic Account Manager. This position allows me to serve Southwest Louisiana’s five-parish area.”
Velika says the true driver of her success is knowing that every day provides new opportunities to learn and grow. “I love helping my clients with everything from small issues to large ones. Having a sense of gratitude and humility allows me to stay grounded and be thankful for every blessing in my life.”
Many women have influenced and inspired Velika along her journey. “God chose my mother to give me the gift of life. She continues to be my cheerleader. I also have several surrogate mothers, teachers, coaches, and professors who let me know that I am able to accomplish anything I put my mind to.”
Velika says she loves not just being in the community but being a part of it. “This is my way of giving back and supporting each of the missions. And I don’t have just one favorite organization – each one is unique.
Velika is married to Josh Trahan, owner of JWADE Enterprises LLC. “I like to say I moved to Lake Charles for the job, but I stayed for the man,” she says. The couple have three children: Isaac, Kaci and Dawson. “Josh and I have built a true friendship, and more importantly, a partnership. I’ve watched him grow his business while being his biggest cheerleader.”
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of SWLA, Board President
- Women’s Commission of SWLA, 2023 President
- Christus Ochsner SWLA Foundation, Board Member
- Family & Youth Counseling Agency, CASA Advisory Council
- Chamber SWLA, Chairperson of the Business Development and Inclusion Task Force
Reach for the moon and land among the stars. -Mary Kay
“I strive to do my best in everything I do, both personally and professionally,” Velika says. “It allows me to travel in the journey called life and enjoy the ride.”