Giving Straight from the Heart

| November 1, 2016

The Auzennes, clockwise from top left: Ethan, Byron, Angeline, Remmi and Sarah.

The Auzennes, clockwise from top left: Ethan, Byron, Angeline, Remmi and Sarah. photo – jJC Penney

Angeline And Byron Auzenne Make A Difference In Children’s Lives

By Mara Soloway

With her lifelong focus on charitable acts, it’s in keeping with Angeline Labbé-Auzenne’s character that she would spend her birthday giving gifts to others rather than concerning herself with receiving them. For her recent October birthday, she and her husband, Byron Auzenne, and their 15-year-old son, Ethan, traveled to San Antonio to give $10,000 to The Children’s Shelter of San Antonio and $2,000 to The Faces of Child Abuse (FOCA) organizations. They later visited the Fort Bend Rainbow Room to give a $3,000 donation to help it provide services for families and children in crisis.

The donations are courtesy of Bayou Belles Charity Service Organization, Inc. (BayouBelles.org), a nonprofit organization Angeline founded in 2009 to improve the basic quality of life for children in Texas and assist low-income families break the cycle of poverty. Byron is a board member and the treasurer. Bayou Belles hosted its sixth gala this past April, which provided the funds for the recent donations in San Antonio and Fort Bend County.

“Bayou Belles members are a group of regular people from the community who felt a calling to help others. We’ve decided our organization can’t fix every child-focused issue, but if there’s something we can do for an individual child or another 501(c)(3), we will,” Angeline said. Ethan has been active in Bayou Belles since he was 6 years old.

Angeline has two incredible living mentors who showed her early in her life that caring for the less fortunate was as natural as breathing: her 103-year-old grandmother, Odelia LaVergne-DeClouette, and her mother, Rosa DeClouette-Labbé, 78.

“Grandma cooked full meals just to give away. She would put food on the back porch for people who got off the train. These days, we would think that is ridiculously dangerous, but we didn’t think that way. It was very normal for us,” she recalled.

Her mother mentored Angeline and her siblings by sewing costumes for them to wear when they sang at retirement centers. “She also sewed quilts with discounted fabrics and drove us downtown to Houston’s worst homeless areas to hand them out of our car windows during the cold Houston winters.” Her mother also baked “amazing beautiful desserts” for the homeless.

“As a child, philanthropy wasn’t a familiar word until later – it was just the way we lived, giving our heart to others,” Angeline said.

The Auzennes are Katy residents of 25 years who both work in careers that allow their concern for others to shine through. Angeline has always been focused on giving children what they need to succeed from infancy on. As a certified Montessori teacher with a focus on special education and a work history at Katy ISD, she has taught and served in various leadership roles at numerous Katy preschools. Now she is the head of Centerra Ranch Montessori School, which the couple opened in June 2012.

Their 31-year-old daughter, Sarah, is a certified Montessori teacher at the school. Granddaughter Remmi, 2, already participates in service projects as a student there.

“I work to mentor my young students and my grandchild to be responsible community leaders through two annual preschool charity service projects, and care of our Earth through our Nature Explore and Science outdoor classroom,” Angeline said. The children raised nearly $2,000 last year by selling Hope Bears benefitting child abuse nonprofits, and they felt like they had changed the entire world.

“The Bayou Belles charity and Centerra Ranch Montessori School are both spiritual vehicles for me,” Angeline said.

While Byron assists Angeline behind the scene with operations of the school, his full-time career is serving as the director of Cardiovascular Services at Memorial Hermann’s Memorial City Medical Center and Katy Hospitals. Being in healthcare is a true passion for Byron, and he enjoys working with patients, clinicians, and healthcare leaders throughout the nation. While he modestly claims that Angeline is the one who cares for others, his concern for his patients shows in how he cares for them, working to give them exceptional care. “I get to oversee the day-to-day cardiovascular operations for an organization that’s actually committed to doing something great for people in Southeast Texas. To see the gratitude of our patients, who return to our facilty after they’ve incurred a major cardiac event just to say thanks, is a truly priceless feeling and experience,” he said.

Byron appreciates that healthcare is moving toward keeping people healthy first, rather than treating disease. “The amount of people taking wellness seriously – 80- and 90-year-olds playing golf and going to the gym – was unheard of when I first started in healthcare. People are starting to get the message that they really need to take better care of themselves when they’re younger to help prevent some of the chronic diseases later in life.”

Angeline is respectul of how hard Byron works. “Then I keep up these philanthropic projects that my heart won’t let me ignore. Byron volunteers because his heart is so supportive even though he wasn’t raised like me,” she said. “It makes it more interesting and more beautiful to me that charity work was not handed to him naturally but he follows my lead and does a great job at it.”

Byron finds Angeline’s giving spirit quite admir­able. “She’s the type of person who would give away everything we own if I would let her. If anyone is down on their luck and Angeline has a dollar to give, she’ll try to give two. She truly has a tremendous desire to help others, with no questions asked.”

As he has assisted his wife in her charitable endeavors, Byron finds it is the hardest work he’s has ever done.

“Asking people for money is very tough. One thing about charitable work is that there’s never an end to it. It’s almost overwhelming to think about the amount of people that need assistance,” he said. “But if you just try it and get involved it will change your life. Angeline taught me that there’s no better feeling in the world than knowing you did something great for a child or another human being.”

Angeline uses the analogy of throwing pennies in the ocean – if everyone contributed a small amount to solve what seems like so many intractable problems, it would quickly add up. “For me, that’s what Bayou Belles is: people who understand that their pennies matter. We may not be able to give $1 million like some, but typically, our gala raises $15,000 to $20,000 and that’s a significant amount of money going to help children in need. Even with a small contribution, you can feel you’ve done something worthwhile,” she said.

“I think it’s just part of why we’re here. There’s nothing really special about it. If you’re not doing for other people, at the end of the day you are going to feel quite empty, and I’m not interested in feeling empty.”

 

At the April Bayou Belles gala (l-r): Byron and Angeline with Ronda and Terry O'Connor.

At the April Bayou Belles gala (l-r): Byron and Angeline with Ronda and Terry O’Connor. photo -Photo by A Family Friend

 

Teacher Sarah Auzenne leads the students in exploring nature in the outdoor classroom at Centerra Ranch Montessori School.

Teacher Sarah Auzenne leads the students in exploring nature in the outdoor classroom at Centerra Ranch Montessori School. photo – Angeline Labbe Auzenne


Category: People & Places in KATY

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