On Dec. 21, 1992, the Louisiana Secretary of State recognized the incorporation of the Louisiana Child Caring Foundation — the entity that eventually became the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.
In recognition of our 25th anniversary, we’re catching up with grantees, starting with our 23 classes of Angel Award honorees.
For years, Frances and Charles Bennett were were an unstoppable duo when it came to volunteering in Baton Rouge. It would be quicker to list area nonprofit organizations to whom they didn’t devote their time and energy. Charles Bennett passed away in December 2016, but Frances’ solo act continues at only a slightly less energetic pace.
“I don’t know how many charities we worked with,” she reminisces. (Dozens, if not scores; several of their commitments ran 20 years or more.) “I’m not doing that much any more.” “Not much” includes greeting visitors who alight from the riverboats docking at Baton Rouge every week, manning the Visit Baton Rouge information booth at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, and presiding over the Inter-Civic Council, where she represents Families Helping Families, one of her latest passions.
Nonprofits whose focus is children and families have been one of the mainstays of the Bennetts’ volunteer repertoire and it was for their work with one of those – Dreams Come True of Louisiana, that they won the Angel Award in 2003. Dreams Come True fulfills the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. Begun in 1982 by seven families in Denham Springs, today the organization makes dreams come true for 50 to 60 children every year. Most live in the Baton Rouge area, but children aged 3 to 18 living anywhere in the state are eligible. At its inception, Dreams Come True was an all-volunteer organization and remained so until 2008. At that time, it took on one paid employee, who with the board of directors is responsible for the entire operation of the organization, even though it has grown to encompass all of Louisiana.
“At that time we were struggling, recalls Bennett, “Of course we were tickled to death to get the grant and the money was well used.”
The memories of Dreams Come True that have stayed with Bennett the longest are of the dedication of the doctors treating the children served by the organization and the patience and resilience of the children who were battling cancer and other serious diseases. “They never complained,” she says.