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Janet Simmons
President/CEO

HOPE’s President and CEO, Janet Simmons, earned a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Finance from Mississippi College that established a solid foundation for her later experience in sales and marketing. Early in her career she worked as the Marketing Planner for Coca Cola USA’s five state, southwest region. She also worked for Micro Computer Techniques in Nashville, Tennessee as their Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Janet believes that running a nonprofit is no different than running a business and her background in finance, sales and marketing has proven to be important in her work as the executive director. She also believes that no matter what kind of work you do; you are in the business of selling something.

Janet has 32 years of experience in the nonprofit industry both professionally and as a volunteer. In 2004, she began working at HOPE Ministries at their Volunteer Coordinator and subsequently as HOPE’s Program Director and Operations and Social Enterprise Director. In 2006, HOPE began earnestly searching out Earned Income Ventures as a source of additional sustainable revenue. Janet’s business experience was crucial in the development and implementation of HOPE’s Understanding the Dynamics of Poverty six-hour professional development workshop. Since its implementation HOPE has trained over 1200 professionals from 250 organizations and corporations.

In 2015 under Janet’s leadership HOPE launched The Way to Work Sustainable Workforce SOLUTIONS©, a program modeled after Cascade Engineering’s Welfare to Career program in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This evidenced based program increased Cascade’s retention from 34% to 97% saving the company millions in turnover expenses. The Way to Work serves the Greater Baton Rouge community and will hopefully expand to other parts of Louisiana, providing a strong workforce model for the state.

Janet’s passion for the impoverished and the desire to help people move forward began at an early age. She was born and raised in Japan as the daughter of missionaries. She credits her faith as a Christian as the motivating factor in her work.

Janet is a member of South Baton Rouge Presbyterian church and is on the music team. She is married and has four children and three grandchildren. She will be happy to show you pictures of her grandchildren any time.

 

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William Merrick
Career Coach

Born and raised in Natchez, MS, William Merrick came to Baton Rouge in 1998 to attend Southern University and A&M College in pursuit of a degree in Architecture. In 2012, he returned to college and received a degree in Construction Management hoping to bridge the sometimes distracting gap between designers and builders. Having worked since he was fifteen years old, William has twenty-two years in the workforce, which includes several years as a Workforce Development Officer for the Louisiana Workforce Commission and two years with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.  William has also been involved in entrepreneurial ventures for the past twelve years as well as held leadership roles in the petro-chemical industry, more recently as a Quality Assurance Coordinator for DOW Chemical Company.

In February, 2017 William joined the HOPE team as the Career Coach, using his varied education, work history and life lessons to not only help people find jobs, but realize there is more to life than what their current circumstances reveal.

William is also a licensed and ordained minister, devoted husband, loving father of two young children and a committed servant of his community.

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David Tidwell
Workforce Training and Development Consultant.

David Tidwell grew up in Baker, LA and graduated from Baker High School. He went on to gain a degree in Computer Programing from Spencer College.  As an ordained minister David has been involved with volunteer and full time ministry for the past 30 years.  He has served as a Children’s, Youth and Senior Pastor and served on the Louisiana State Youth and Christian Education Board for six years.  For fourteen years he owned and operated a teacher’s supply store and distribution warehouse in Baker.

In 2013, David was employed as the Community Resource Consultant for the State of Louisiana for the United Methodist Publishing House where he was a team lead for the consultant team. During his tenure with the publishing house he completed the Richardson Consultative Sales training and the Richardson Consultative Sales Coaching training. For two years David’s region received the honor of being “Market of the Year.” David also was the Program Director of the Christian Outreach Transitional Services (COTES) program, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the program serving homeless, recovery and prison re-entry populations.  He worked closely with companies’ through-out the Baton Rouge area employing day labor.

In May of 2017 David joined The Way to Work team as the Workforce Training and Development Consultant. With his extensive experience of working with curriculum and sales David brings to the team the necessary skill set to expand The Way to Work in the community.

David is a teacher at heart and loves to help facilitate the trainings. He is an avid gardener, camper and enjoys cooking.  David is married and has three children and two grandchildren, two dogs and a fish.

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Nancy S. Foy
Director, The Way to Work

Nancy S. Foy came to work at HOPE in April of 2012 as one of HOPE’s Family Services Specialist. Nancy is a long time resident of Louisiana. She grew up in New Orleans. Nancy earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Merchandising from Louisiana State University. Nancy previously owned and operated a local uniform business, Nightingale’s Uniform in Baton Rouge for over twenty years. There she gained experience not only running a business but learning to work with and managing low-income employees, giving her a foundation for her work at HOPE. Prior to working for HOPE, Nancy was a case worker for the East Baton Rouge Parish Schools Homeless Program assisting families of middle and high school students with resources in the community concerning education, shelter, food, and medical needs. Nancy’s work with youth and families that were homeless made her a perfect fit for HOPE. Prior to her work with the school system Nancy worked with homeless youth at Youth Oasis. Nancy’s bicultural background has fostered a strong commitment to cultural competence. HOPE is privileged to have her experience, understanding and compassion as she works with the HOPE team to prevent homelessness and promote self-sufficiency and dignity.

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Dick Stonich
Family Services Financial Coordinator

Richard J. Stonich volunteered with HOPE since his retirement in 2007 from Iberville Bank. Dick has been HOPE’s Going Beyond facilitator now for eight years and later came on staff part time as HOPE Family Services Financial Specialist and Trainer.

After attending the University of Illinois followed by two years of military service he began his banking career in 1968 in Baton Rouge, LA with City National Bank. While at City National Bank he completed their management training program and settled into branch management. Dick managed several branches for this bank and was appointed chairman of the banks newly established Branch Operations Committee. After ten years he left City National Bank having attained the title of Assistant Vice President. In 1978, he assumed an executive management position with Iberville Bank, a Baton Rouge area community bank. Dick completed his career with Iberville Bank in 2007 having risen to the position of Senior Vice President and Corporate Secretary. Dick served on the bank’s Loan Committee, Asset / Liability Management Committee, and was chairman of the Marketing Committee. As a member of the bank’s executive management team his primary responsibilities were focused in compliance, training, security, marketing, investments, and assisting human resources with compliance issues. He also acted as the bank’s liaison for legal matters.

In his banking career he has worked directly with numerous state and federal agencies which include the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas Community Investment and Economic Development Programs, F.D.I.C., U.S. Treasury, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, Louisiana Attorney General and State Treasurer as well as the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana. Dick maintained his professional accreditations through regular attendance at annual seminars hosted by the Louisiana Bankers Association, The Independent Bankers Association, the FDIC, and other professional organizations. During his career he completed the Executive Bank Management School at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and the Banking School for Supervisory at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He also graduated from Bank Administration School at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and Bank Personnel School at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He has served on numerous boards and committees both professional and civic. These include such organizations as the Louisiana Bankers Association’s Marketing and Security Committees and the Capital Area March of Dimes as well as the Iberville Foundation for Academic Excellence.

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Joe Rogers

Client Choice Food Pantry Coordinator

Joe came to HOPE in 2017. He is originally from Baton Rouge and a graduate of Istrouma High School. He has a broad range of experience including maintenance at many local businesses. He currently runs his own business doing maintenance projects for clients when he’s not at HOPE.

 

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Cristy Davidson
HOPE Volunteer and Program Supervisor

Cristy Davidson grew up in Lafayette, LA and graduated from LSU with a Bachelor of Science in Education. Cristy worked as a loan officer and processor of mortgages for many years, and decided to remain at home with her daughter, Zoe, for six years. As Zoe started school, Cristy began working in the nonprofit field as a development manager. She worked for a new local charter school establishing an annual gala and organizing various school related community events including White Light Night in Mid-City and the Grand Opening for the Dyslexia Resource Center.

Cristy’s organizational skills and experience working with volunteers made her a perfect fit for HOPE. She began in May 2017 as the Volunteer and Program Supervisor overseeing all the operations of the Client Choice Food Pantry, holiday events and volunteers.  Not only does she love working with all the volunteers and clients at HOPE but she is thrilled to work with such a talented and compassionate group of colleagues. Cristy, her husband, Craig, and Zoe are members of First United Methodist Church where Cristy served on the Children’s Council and was involved with Vacation Bible School. They have two spoiled dogs, Lulu and Coco.

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Yulawnda Pearson
Success Coach

The Way to Work Success Coach Yulawnda Pearson earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Alabama State University. During the beginning of her career she was a sales representative for PepsiCo, Fed EX and Schein Pharmaceuticals where she gained a plethora of experience. Although she loved her work in the corporate setting, her heart was leading her elsewhere.  She felt that she should be helping people to believe in themselves and work toward a desired goal through planning and taking action.

Yulawnda worked with Amandla Crossing and Imani Park, a nonprofit transitional housing program as the Adult Basic Skills Instructor for Making it Possible to End Homelessness (MIPH) in Edison, New Jersey. True to her heart, Yulawnda had the opportunity to help adults in both programs improve their basis skills to take and pass their GED. She also served as a Customer Service Representative for reNewJersey STRONGER assisting clients with who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy to access all the services needed to rebuild.

In 2016, Yulawnda moved to Denham Springs, LA in order to live closer to her oldest daughter. Her successful experience in New Jersey helping people increase their educational outcomes made Yulawnda the perfect match for The Way to Work. Hired as the Success Coach for The Way to Work, Yulawnda meets people daily who need her to help them overcome daily challenges that may be contributing to negative outcomes. She encourages her clients to continue to persevere to self-sufficiency.

Yulawnda is the mother of four daughters and is a member of Beacon Light Church of Walker, LA.

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Eddie O’Connor
Intake Coordinator
Bio Coming Soon

 

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Antoinette Brown

Client Choice Food Pantry Apprentice

Antoinette has been a long time client of HOPE and The Way to Work program. She began working for us in 2017. She graduated from Frederick Douglas High School in New Orleans and came to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina. She is a hard-working mother of three children.

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Elena Lavigne
CPA

Elena Lavigne has been a CPA for over ten years. Prior to starting her own firm, Elena worked in public accounting for several years with another local CPA firm. After graduating from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, she worked for the State of Louisiana as a bank examiner and legislative auditor.  Elena is also commissioned as a Notary Public for the State of Louisiana.  In 2017, Elena completed the Financial Coach Master Training with Ramsey Financial Solutions.

Elena lives in Walker with her husband, Thadd who is a Nurse Practitioner at North Oaks. They have 2 children, Lucas and Reagan, and are members of Live Oak Baptist Church.  Elena also serves as Treasurer for the Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association.