Chef Amy Sins
Cushaw Cake – Susan Goss/Second Harvest Foodbank
Chef Amy Sins Cushaw Cake - Susan Goss/Second Harvest Foodbank
4 large eggs
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cushaw squash, cooked and mashed (substitute butternut squash or pumpkin)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350°F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with -the paddle attachment combine the eggs, sugar, oil and squash until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl stir together the flour, baking -powder, spices, salt and baking soda Add the dry ingredients to the -mixer bowl and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined. Raise -speed to medium high and beat batter 1 minute to aerate.
Butter a 9″x 13″ baking pan or spray with pan spray.
Spread the batter evenly into pan, smoothing the top.
Bake until golden brown and cake tester inserted near the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Let cool completely before cutting into bars frost, if desired with your favorite cream cheese frosting.
Chef Amy Sins
I never thought that I’d need to rely on strangers for food and assistance but that is what happened when our home flooded during Hurricane Katrina. It was challenging to wrap my mind around the fact that I was now on the receiving side of love and kindness rather than the giving side. The volunteer groups who helped us clean our home and the organizations who fed us were exactly what we needed to restore our hope that brighter days were ahead.
So many strangers helped us, inspired us and fed us and I vowed I would pay it forward one day. My first pay it forward effort was in 2008 when my husband and I saw on the news that Cedar Rapids Iowa was flooding. In that moment we decided to use our vacation days and gather a team to help.
The experience was emotional and rewarding. Though we were there to give, we also received. The resilient spirit, the smiles, and the stories touched our hearts.
Here in Louisiana, the first thing we want to do is feed people. When someone in Louisiana cooks for you, I can guarantee that food is filled with love. And we all know that even when it is 98˚ outside, a bowl of gumbo can make you feel better.
I’ve learned throughout the years that families need different things in the days immediately following a disaster than they need during the days and months of rebuilding. A hot meal is not always practical when services like clean water and electricity are limited so we have to opt for shelf stable and prepackaged items like granola bars, trail mix and bottled water. Then, when services are restored it is time for the good stuff like gumbo, red beans & rice and jambalaya!
During the Louisiana floods in 2016 I began partnering with Second Harvest Foodbank. Their team taught me even more about disaster relief and food. They also reminded me people go hungry everyday in our state, not just during disasters.
In the Second Harvest kitchen our team of chefs and volunteers have cooked some amazing food- gumbo, jambalaya, blackened shrimp, smoked pork, bread pudding and more. Each meal has a little bit of Louisiana love in every bite. Here are a few recipes to hopefully inspire you to cook at home, and also inspire you to partner with an organization in your area who provides meals to others.
You can follow our disaster relief efforts online at https://www.facebook.com/groups/262933897426740/
Opening Doors for
Covenant House Sleep Out on November 21st/22nd
Rallies Community Leaders in Support of Homeless & At-Risk Youth
On November 21st, 230 business & community leaders Slept Out on the street in solidarity with 4.2 million homeless kids nationwide, giving up the comforts of home for one night to show their support and raise awareness.
Spending the night on the curb with only a sleeping bag and cardboard box, sleepers “sent a message to runaway and homeless kids: we stand with them, celebrate their courage & resiliency, and support their promise & dreams,” said Jim Kelly, Executive Director.
Covenant House provides a safe haven for homeless & at-risk youth (ages 22 and under), with services including: food, shelter, clothing, medical care, educational & vocational support, individual & family counseling, job readiness & placement, short & long-term housing, and bus tickets home. Over the past eight years, the number of youth & children in our care has grown from 45 to 164 kids per night.
Co-chairs Thomas Morstead & Katie Harvill planned a memorable program, enabling sleepers to interact with Covenant House youth and alumni while offering support, guidance, and encouragement. “As usual, the Sleep Out was a night full of meaning and inspiration,” said Harvill. “Supporting Covenant House was an easy choice; the work they do for homeless youth is incredible,” added Morstead.
Gulf Coast Bank & Trust, Allstate, and Morstead’s What You Give Will Grow Foundation – along with a host of others – were major sponsors, helping Covenant House raise a record-breaking $620,000. Committed sleepers ranged in age from 25 to 84 and represented a cross section of the community. More information is available at http://neworleans.thesleepout.org.
SCHEDULE: From 7:30pm-11pm, our sleepers joined Covenant House youth & staff and engaged in frank “roundtable” discussions exploring the issues of abuse, homelessness, addiction, violence, and trauma. From 11pm-6am, our sleepers were given a sleeping bag, a cardboard box, and a place along Rampart Street to rest their heads for the night.
at the Governor’s Mansion
at the Governor’s Mansion
Each year, a theme is chosen to decorate the Governor’s Mansion. The first year, Louisiana’s French heritage was celebrated. The second year, Louisiana’s Spanish heritage was showcased. Last year New Orleans’ 300th anniversary was honored. This year, the theme is “All Things Louisiana”. The color tone is warm and earthy. The decorators attempted to bring Louisiana’s natural beauty indoors with magnolias, magnolia leaf garland, moss, pine cones, and cotton. Fleur-de-lis, pelicans and replicas of our great state can be seen throughout the decorations.
There are three large trees in the mansion – two are in the parlor and one is in the state dining room. These trees are beautifully decorated with ornaments created by the amazing and creative students across our state. Louisiana is uniquely beautiful, and seeing the students showcase its beauty through their creativity warms the heart during this holiday season. A children’s tree is also decorated each year. This year, the children’s tree is adorned with red beans and rice, pots of gumbo, and oyster shells painted with Christmas scenes. This tree is finished with a precious Louisiana print ribbon.
The Governor and First Lady love having the opportunity to share the State’s beautiful home with the people of Louisiana this time of year, and are truly thankful for the incredibly hardworking team who decorated the Mansion this year. The inspiration for the decorations was drawn from the original painting by Chris Davis, “The Mansion Magnolia” that hangs in one of the guest rooms at the Mansion. Governor Edwards assisted Mr. Davis and his signature can be found on the bottom of the painting and the prints available for sale through the Mansion Foundation.
Click the link below and find the Magnolia print and many other items for sale including the beautiful collection of Mansion ornaments. Any of these items would make great hostess gifts or presents for the holiday season!
WOMEN'S HEALTH BLOG December 2019
Words from Kimiyo Harris Williams, M.D., FAAP
“Self-Love is Healthy Living-Women Walking in Mental Health Wellness”
As I reflect on this year of 2019, it’s been one of great victories and amazing opportunities. The wonderful stories of accomplishment are not only evident in my own personal experiences but they are testimonies from friends and family alike. I have heard of accounts of promotions in the workplace, career transitions and retirements to complete healing from cancer. These stories have been a catalyst of extreme joy in the lives of many.
However, intertwined in the happiness of these victories have been times of sorrow. There were too many funerals to attend; too many marriages ending and too many reports of debilitating illness. Witnessing and experiencing the grief of a close friend during the loss of both of her parents within only a few months was devastating. The pain intensified when I, myself, lost my great aunt in April of this year. My great aunt assumed the role of grandmother because my paternal grandmother, her sister, passed before I was born. The unexpected death of my great aunt left me very sad but not without hope. Moreover, literally wrapping my arms around girlfriends during the process of divorce has opened my eyes to the importance of mental health wellness in a real and personal way.
19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018 (47.6 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults.
Being there to support my sisters is very noble but in order to provide beneficial help, I must be whole myself. We all will have struggles and disappointments in life that will affect us differently. It is very important to be cognizant of our overall mental health status. Furthermore, it’s essential to know our baseline mental health state and acknowledge a need for help.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018 (47.6 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults. The NAMI further states that distinguishing between expected behaviors and what might be the signs of a mental illness can sometimes be difficult. Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following: excessive worrying or fear; feeling excessively sad or low; confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning; extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria; prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger; avoiding friends and social activities; difficulties understanding or relating to other people; changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy; changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite; changes in sex drive; difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality); inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality; abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs; multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”);thinking about suicide; inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress; an intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance. To learn more about mental health illness visit: https://www.nami.org.
I encourage anyone experiencing any of these symptoms to seek care from a mental health professional. Learning all you can about mental health is an important first step in seeking mental health treatment. Additionally, contacting your primary care doctor, state mental health department and your health insurance company for more resources are important in initiating treatment. The NAMI HelpLine can also be a valuable resource in assisting with information on services and supports available in your community.
If you or someone you know needs help now, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.
With the alarming mental health statistics reported by the NAMI that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness per year, it is imperative to encourage increased mental health awareness among our mothers, sisters, daughters and girlfriends. Embracing the idea that it’s “okay” to seek the help we need, I am thankful that my friend, my family and I decided to pursue the care needed as we learn to navigate life without our loved ones. Let us continue to be our sister’s keeper by intervening when we see any warning signs of mental illness and encouraging mental health wellness.
ALICIA GUIDRY WINDSTEIN
Southern Lights Candles
Alicia Guidry Windstein Owner, Southern Lights Candles
Alicia Guidry Windstein, is a life-long resident of St. Charles Parish and a graduate of Destrehan High School. Her creative flair, discipline and commitment to high quality contributed to provide the opportunity to fulfill her dream of opening her own candle business. Through the support of her husband, children and parents it has become a family affair. Her experience obtained over the years and her personal love of candles has resulted in a luxury fragrance line, exclusive and strongly scented, presented in beautiful and unique containers that capture the elegance and charm of the south.
Southern Lights Candles expanded as we started sharing our candles with friends and family. Social Media created another big push which created more interest in the candles. The growth of the candle line was fast and enormous. This growth provided opportunities to increase the Southern Lights line to include wax melts, room and linen sprays, and their compliment line of organic goats’ milk decorative soaps which are known for their skin healing and moisturizing benefits.
Private labeling is also available and Southern Lights has created exclusive candles for several local New Orleans restaurants and Spa’s.
The candles are blended, poured and packaged by hand in Destrehan, Louisiana. Southern Lights uses the highest quality soy blend wax, premium Phthalate Free fragrances and wicks specially designed to burn clean and produce a maximized burn time.
As a firm believer of giving back, Southern Lights has offered and provided products for a fundraiser for a local family which helped pay some of their medical bills. Since then the company has helped dance teams, school bands, sports teams, school drama departments, the local Animal Shelter and the Police department with the same support.
Southern Lights candles can be found in boutiques throughout the state of Louisiana and we have recently expanded to Mississippi and Arkansas. They can also be purchased on the website, www.southernlightscandles.net
TANYA BARNETT WHITNEY
Army & Army National Guard
Master Sergeant Tanya Barnett Whitney Army & Army National Guard
Master Sergeant Tanya Barnett Whitney retired from the military in July 2010 after nearly 28 years of service with the Army and Army National Guard. She served as an aircraft mechanic with her last assignment as the Army National Guard’s Fixed Wing Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor before retirement. Her military awards include the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters. As a 100% permanent disabled veteran, Tanya concentrates on volunteer work, particularly work concerning women veterans and wounded warriors such as herself.
Chairman of the Ascension Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, Tanya creates programs to honor the efforts of local residents serving our country from the American Revolution to current operations. Tanya implemented the Ascension Parish Wreaths Across America program to honor veterans who have passed on, placing wreaths across 70 plus cemeteries in Ascension Parish. Under her leadership, the foundation has also implemented programs to honor Vietnam Veterans and Purple Heart recipients.
A Guest Speaker for events regarding veterans and veteran issues, she assists other veterans as a peer mentor and provides input on women veteran issues to members of the US Congress. Tanya has worked with local television and news media on individual events, forums, and articles highlighting women in military service and how to cope with the effects of PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. She is the Louisiana Ambassador for the Women In Military Service For America Memorial in Arlington, VA.
Tanya also serves as a Cross Country Head Coach and Track and Field Assistant Coach at St. Amant High School, increasing the numbers of students participating in the Gators’ programs. She is also an accomplished Masters Athlete in the field of throwing. Tanya is a top athlete in her age group in the shot put, discus, javelin, hammer throw, weight throw, and super weights, placing in many local, regional, and National competitions.
An award winning and accomplished poet, Tanya has had several poems place in national poetry contests to include a gold medal at the 2018 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. She has been recognized across the nation with poems published in various poetry publications. Tanya has received numerous national and local awards and recognition for her work and dedication to educating, volunteering, and serving members of the community. Tanya has been married to Robert Whitney, Jr. for over 30 years and they reside in Sorrento, LA. They have two children, Robert III and Rebekah.
2019 Elementary State Teacher of the Year
Tasha Jolivette-Jones Louisiana’s 2019 Elementary State Teacher of the Year
Tasha Jolivette-Jones, kindergarten teacher in Iberia Parish, is Louisiana’s 2019 Elementary State Teacher of the Year, as well as the Louisiana’s 2019 Public Interest Fellowship winner. Launched by the Department of Education in 2018, the Fellowship allows one educator, chosen from the previous year’s list of Louisiana Teacher of the Year finalists, to spend a school year advocating for an education initiative of their choosing. An activist for developmentally appropriate practice, Jolivette-Jones is dedicating her fellowship year to promoting active, student-centered learning in kindergarten. Better known as play, this practice allows children to make choices, improve physical dexterity, explore interests, and experiment safely while developing the social-emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life. “Play is essential to early education and I would like to be its ambassador,” Jolivette-Jones said. In August, she implemented the Kindergarten PLAYS initiative to establish a framework for child-centered learning that supports rigorous standards in kindergarten without sacrificing developmentally appropriate practice. She is working with a network of teachers in Iberia parish to create five model classrooms representing diverse student populations, socioeconomic concerns, and teaching styles. Based on their experiences in the pilot program, the cohort is building a comprehensive guide to make Kindergarten PLAYS easy to use and affordable for any classroom. “We’re trying to show what a playful learning approach might look like anywhere, even if you don’t have an ideal classroom,” Jolivette-Jones said. She hopes to give every teacher enough support to get started. “A simple cardboard box can be a firetruck to teach fire safety or it can be a tractor to learn about farms. We’re hoping to help teachers use what they already have, but in a playful way,” she explained. The guide will also include resources for finding funding, physical materials, and community support.
Jolivette-Jones’ goal through this work is to showcase playful learning as the best strategy for achieving rigorous state standards. “When children play,” she explains, “they use their whole bodies to explore the world around them. They are naturally driven to experiment and then to reason in order to make sense of their experiences. Once a truth is discovered, play provides opportunities for children to apply what they have learned to new situations.” Jolivette-Jones explains that play benefits physical and emotional wellbeing as well. Whether children are climbing or cutting, drawing or dancing, play builds muscles that are necessary for a healthy and productive life. And, playful experiences allow children to process their emotions in a healthy way. They face their fears by defeating monsters, minimize anxiety by magically solving problems, and roar like bears until their anger subsides. Play is an ideal approach to early education because it builds on children’s natural learning ability without hampering their curiosity. Artificial tasks, like worksheets and scripted activities, are less meaningful. Children have trouble focusing on and remembering material presented that way.
“Play is not just fun. It is purposeful. Kindergarten may look like chaos, but every single thing that the students are doing is guiding them toward an academic goal.” Jolivette-Jones maintains that, in a playful kindergarten, a teacher’s job is to structure the classroom environment and to provide experiences that pique children’s curiosity about the big ideas addressed in the curriculum. After that, teachers may provide guidance and support, but learners will be driven by their natural need to know everything about everything.
Jolivette-Jones invites her students to play purposefully throughout the day. For each area of academic content, the children partake in a mini lesson and then they play with their ideas in learning labs. These dedicated play areas focus on a variety of skills, such as using money at the Farmer’s Market or retelling stories at the Puppet Theater. The labs include a broad assortment of interest areas, each designed to deepen the children’s understanding of the concepts addressed in class. Learners have freedom of choice and of movement. They are in charge of their own learning paths. “The children are so captivated by their activities, they don’t even know that they’re learning,” she said.
Jolivette-Jones observes the children closely as they play. She uses the Desired Results Developmental Profile for Kindergarten (DRDP-K) and the district report card to monitor each child’s progress toward the Louisiana Student Standards for kindergarten. “I’ve always had a playful classroom,” she said, “but this year my students are spending half of each day engaged in play. I know what the research says, but I didn’t expect to see so much growth this soon. I am astounded by the progress they’ve made so far!”
Jolivette –Jones has taught kindergarten in Iberia Parish for fifteen years. She is an alumna of the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a master’s degree in Special Education.
Free Nola, Inc.
Free Nola, Inc. exists to bring hope, love, compassion and restoration to the sexually trafficked and sexually abused who perhaps, in the eyes of society, don’t deserve it. For most of the trafficking survivors, sexual abuse and victimization begins in childhood.
One of the most important factors to remember is that human sex trafficking happens everywhere; in your town, your neighborhood, your church, your schools and even in your family. No place is sacred, and no place is off limits. The only way not to see it is to not look for it.
Free NOLA is committed to intersecting the lives of trained team members with workers in strip clubs, massage parlors, motels or brothels. By doing this consistently over time, relationships of trust are developed so that encouragement and a better way of life can be presented. Over 95% of those trapped in the sex industry never imagined that they would be doing this type of work. However, by that time, many do not have the life or job skills to do anything else. And, typically, they do not have a network of people to help them envision or embrace a better life. That’s where Free NOLA team members and our Safe House step in to guide them along their pathway to wholeness.
One of the keys to our success is consistency. When someone says they are going to do something for you and don’t, this breeds fear and lack of trust. We come in, not with expectations but with towel in hand (so to speak) to offer kindness, hope and a love that most had never seen before. In other words, we are seed planters; planting seeds of hope, not despair; love and not condemnation. It is amazing how far one can travel, if someone will just believe in them. Many of these women have children with absentee fathers and/or multiple fathers with no education and the skills for a normal life. Many end up on our streets or in the sex industry. Our job is to come alongside them, encourage them; help them out of the pit they are in. Free NOLA team members step in to guide them along the pathway to wholeness.
Please visit our website at www.freenola.org.
Louisiana DCFS Receives
National Award for Work in Adoption
Louisiana DCFS Receives
National Award for Work in Adoption
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Child Welfare Division recently received an Adoption Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its work to increase the number of foster children placed in permanent homes.
HHS recognized DCFS with an award for Child Welfare/Judicial Systemic Change on Nov. 12, 2019, citing the agency’s “extraordinary contributions made supporting positive permanency outcomes for children in foster care.”
Since 2016, DCFS has transformed its approach to foster care and adoption, resulting in three consecutive years of record-breaking numbers of children finding permanency through adoption in 2016-2018. The largest increase was among teens (ages 13-17) with 30.8% more teens adopted in 2018 than 2017.
The Adoption Excellence Award was one of several highpoints in this banner year for adoptions in Louisiana.
DCFS recently celebrated its second-highest number of adoptions from foster care in 2019, with 893 children and youth finding loving, permanent homes with 661 families. Teens again saw the largest increase in adoptions, rising from 68 in 2018 to 83 in 2019.
DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters also was recognized as an Angels in Adoption honoree at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Angels in Adoption Gala on Nov. 14, 2019.
The transformation in foster care and adoption has included implementation of the Quality Parenting Initiative, the launch and expansion of Louisiana Fosters and collaborative efforts with national partners such as the Dave Thomas Foundation, Casey Family Programs, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Youth Villages and the Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development.
The changes have improved relationships among DCFS, foster caregivers and parents; increased support systems for caregivers and children; built new partnerships and gained the commitment of stakeholders at every level.
The department achieved another milestone this year when it launched an extended foster care program for youth ages 18-21.