B&G Restaurateurs Donate to Nicholls State University Athletics

A sizable donation from two Morgan City restaurateurs is set to benefit over 350 student-athletes at Nicholls State University, according to a news release from the school.

Brenda and Gregory Hamer Sr, owners and operators of B&G Food Enterprises, have donated $100,000 to Nicholls State University Athletics. The Hamer family has a history within the Thibodaux and Houma region and with Nicholls State University itself, as their grandson, Garret LeBlanc, is a former Nicholls Football player.

Hillary Charpentier, director of the Colonel Athletic Association, said of the Hammers’ donation, “as the lowest funded school in the Southland Conference, donor dollars allow Nicholls Athletics to compete on the same or higher level than our peer institutions. Support like this has a direct impact on all student-athletes here at Nicholls. Our student-athletes must receive the support they need to compete and succeed at the highest level both on and off the field.”

Previously in 2021, the Hamers had donated $50,000 to the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute so that state-of-the-art kitchen and cooking equipment could be purchased and maintained for Nicholls Students. As a result, the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute’s student lounge and culinary library was named the Gregory and Brenda Hamer Family/Taco Bell Student Lounge and Research Center. Gregory Hamer Jr, the couple’s son, was in the first graduation class of the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute.

Gregory Hamer Sr. remarked to Nicholls press that he and his wife had plenty of reasons to support the university in saying, “we have one grandson who played for the football team, and we have another who plays for them now. We also have businesses in Morgan City, Thibodaux, Houma, and Matthews. It just makes sense for us to support Nicholls. We’ve been proud to support this university for years, and we’re happy to be able to help them with this incredible facility.”

As a sign of their appreciation, Nicholls Athletics has proposed that the Tight Ends Meeting Room be named after the Hamer’s grandson and former Nicholls Football player, Garret LeBlanc, and their business, B&G Enterprises, pending approval from the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors.

The naming within the Boucvalt Family Athletic Complex is a part of a naming campaign that began in 2020 to raise money for current and future needs within Nicholls Athletics. The campaign’s initial goal was to name all areas within the facility, and each may be named after an individual, family, or business as per the guidelines set forth by the state of Louisiana, Nicholls State University, and the Donor Gifts Agreement. Funds accumulated from the naming campaign are used as both an endowment and for upkeep and maintenance within the athletic department.

Nicholls Athletic Director, Jonathan Terrell, commented on the recent donation by saying, “every student-athlete benefits from this. For them to be able to give from the heart is incredible because of how many people it’s going to help. We have this excellent new building, and with these dollars will be able to keep it in the best shape possible.”

B&G Food Enterprises, which was initially created in 1982 by the Hamers when they opened their first Taco Bell location in Morgan City, now operates over 150 Taco Bell locations across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas and is the largest Taco Bell franchise in Louisiana. Gregory Hamer Sr. is a Trustee of the National Restaurant Associationand the past chairman of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. Hamer Sr. also served as the president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association and was elected to the association’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

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Nicholls Receives Donation from Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation

The students of Nicholls State University are still seeing the effects of Hurricane Ida in their lives, but those effects aren’t being ignored by the supportive community around them. According to this news feature from the University itself, over $75,000 has been awarded to Nicholls so that affected students and their families can be supported many months after the storm has passed.  In total, both Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation have awarded Nicholls State University with a $77,760 reward to help with Hurricane Ida recovery efforts.

Colette Hirstius, Shell’s senior vice president for the Gulf of Mexico, had spoken on the long-lasting relationship between the company and the Louisiana community. She said, “The Bayou Region has been home to Shell for over 100 years and it was important to us to be able to help provide a home for Colonels and their families who lost theirs to the devastation of Hurricane Ida. We are grateful and proud to be able to provide safe, stable housing so that these students can stay in school and focus on their futures.”

Nicholls has reported that the funds will be utilized to meet the needs of students and families who have been displaced from their houses by Hurricane Ida. The funds will be used in a variety of ways, with a considerably large portion being used to provide temporary housing, address food insecurity, and give families basic living essentials like clothing, toiletries, medications, school supplies, and so much more. After the funds were awarded, processed, and tallied, it was announced that the money will cover the housing, meals, and living expenses for at least 20 students and their families, thus providing much-needed support in such unsure times.

The executive director of the Bayou Community Foundation, Jennifer Armand, said of the awarded funds, “Nicholls State University responded quickly after Hurricane Ida to provide temporary housing and meals to students, faculty and staff who lost so much during the storm. The Bayou Community Foundation is pleased to partner with Shell to support all of these important relief efforts.”

The Bayou Community Foundation, which was originally created in 2012, is the only community foundation that is specifically designed to solely serve Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, and Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Foundation was started after local leaders saw the continuing effects on the surrounding community following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. “Local leaders recognized the need for a community foundation to strengthen human services, education/workforce development, and coastal preservation efforts in our area, as well as to serve as “the community bucket” for national and international assistance in the event of a future emergency or natural disaster,” according to bayoudf.com.

As many are aware, Hurricane Ida made its landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2021, and Ida’s turbulent winds and powerful storm surges had made it so that an estimated 25 percent of homes in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish were destroyed or deemed uninhabitable. As a result, approximately two-thirds of the Nicholls State University community had reported that their homes had sustained damage from the storm, and one-in-five students reported their homes to be destroyed or uninhabitable.

The above estimates are only a small piece of the massive effects left behind by this storm as they only focus on living conditions. Many members in the Nicholls community saw access to reliable income, transportation, and much, much more disrupted by Ida, which is why this donation of over $75,000 from Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation is appreciated months after the storm.

Dr. Jay Clune, president of Nicholls State University, remarked on the donation with the following words, “many of our students and their families have literally lost the roof over their heads with estimates of weeks, months, and even longer for recovery and rebuilding efforts to truly take shape in the hardest-hit communities. Without the generosity and support of partners such as Shell and BCF, it would be impossible for Nicholls to enact our vision to be the intellectual, economic and cultural heart of the Bayou Region.” To donate towards the efforts of the Bayou Community Foundation’s Hurricane Ida Relief, click here.

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Nicholls Received Donation to House Displaced Students

After Hurricane Ida struck the southeastern portion of Louisiana, hundreds of college students who had just started their 2021 Fall semesters were, unfortunately, displaced. Luckily, many colleges and universities across the state had opened their classrooms, dormitories, and facilities to these displaced college students, including Houma’s Nicholls State University. In fact, in order to provide living spaces for three dozen of their displaced students, Nicholls has been renovating their South Babington Hall thanks to a $125,000 donation from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, according to a press release from the school

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation, or the BRAF, was initially created in 1964 as a philanthropic organization offering relief and service projects across South Louisiana by working with local governments, partnering with nonprofit organizations, and issuing grants. The BRAF’s donation will be used to restore 18 dorm rooms that are located on the first floor of the building in order to provide living spaces to 36 Nicholls students. These students had previously lived off-campus, having been displaced by Hurricane Ida, but once the dorms are renovated they will have a place to call their home-away-from-home.

Lois Smyth spoke on behalf of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation as the director of their Donor Services, saying, “We understand that Nicholls State University received significant damages from Hurricane Ida, leaving many students homeless. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is pleased to support the work taking place in the Bayou region and it is our hope that this grant will assist with accommodating displaced students.”

Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune said of the donation, “While many of us are rebuilding our homes after Hurricane Ida, there are many more who do not have a home to return to. We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. Because of this gift, students will no longer have to worry about having a roof over their heads or where they are going to sleep. This is what it means to be Louisiana Strong.”

These renovations will consist of the installation of refreshed and refurbished lighting, the application of new coats of paint to the bottom floor, and repairs made to the various ceilings, flooring, and furniture in the various dorm rooms. While these renovations are expected to make up a large sum of the total $125,000 donation, the school reports that any additional funds will be used to update the building’s heating and cooling systems. Luckily, the renovations are only expected to last under a month, so students will be able to move in and enjoy the newly refreshed rooms before the semester is over.

Jeremy Becker, the Executive Director of The Nicholls Foundation, referred to these renovations as the “first step” to be made in helping students return to the campus, but there are still plenty more who could use the help as well. He had reportedly said, “This is a tremendous gift from BRAF and it will assist many students, but unfortunately the need is still great. We learn every day of more students needing not just assistance to attend Nicholls, but simply to have a place to call home. We will continue our fundraising efforts to meet that need as best it can be met.”

Recently, the Nicholls Foundation created the Campus Emergency and Hurricane Relief Fund in order to help students, faculty, and staff who have been impacted by storms like Hurricane Ida. The money collected from donations made to the fund will be used to help the community of Nicholls State University recover from the storm and get back on its feet. Donations to the Nicholls Foundation’s relief fund can be made here.

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Nicholls Foundation Receives History Making Donation

Nicholls State University received a generous donation last month that will benefit over a dozen students and faculty pursuing educational enrichment.  As announced in August by the Nicholls Foundation in a university press release, an impressive bequest from the estate of James and Mary Alice Van Sickle (BA ‘66) will produce 10 endowed professorships and 10 or more scholarships for undergraduates, graduates, and professors alike at the prestigious university.

The Van Sickle’s generous gifts will go to the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, with the professorships, specifically honoring Mary Alice’s mother, Mabel Bollinger Toups, a lifelong Lockport teacher. The James R. and Mary Alice Van Sickle Endowed Scholarships will range from $2,500 to $5,000 per student.

Mary Alice Van Sickle is a Lockport native who majored in English education while at Nicholls, and the gift offered by the Van Sickles is sure to honor the educational legacy of Mabel Toups. Today, James and Mary Alice live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as she retired in 2014 after a three-decade career in marketing for a landscape architectural firm in Boston.

Mary Alice was quoted as believing “ that there is no better preparation for living a full and rewarding life than through education. I hope these scholarship students will enrich their own lives through learning and will graduate with the tools that will lead to success in their chosen professions. The bequest will also allow teachers to expand their own learning opportunities through research and study, and to continue to inspire the love of learning in students by serving as positive role models.”

While the Van Sickles humbly did not wish to announce the donation amount, their gift is recognized to be the largest legacy agreement within the Nicholls Foundation’s Oaks Society, an organization, which is comprised of alumni, parents, faculty and friends making a planned gift to Nicholls State University or the closely related Nicholls Foundation.

Named after the numerous and ever-present oak trees of the Nicholls campus, membership to the Oaks Society can be granted to any individual donating in an effort to further the mission of Nicholls State University, regardless of amount. Like the nearly 50 oak trees present at the university’s founding, and still providing shade and scenery today, these planned gifts have the potential to have a lasting generational impact.

Mary Alice is extremely fond of her time spent at the university, saying, ““I have always felt that I received an outstanding education at Nicholls, which provided me with the life skills that would equip me to succeed in my chosen career. Nicholls instilled in me a true love for learning, and a curiosity about the world beyond the bayou. The bequest is my way of saying thank you. This beloved institution placed its trust in me so many years ago and provided me with a foundation of knowledge, which has nurtured me throughout my adult life.”

The Nicholls Foundation’s executive director, Jeremy Becker expressed his excitement of the VanSickle’s gift and the “tremendous impact” that it will have for “so many faculty and students at Nicholls.” The Foundation, itself, is an independent university group that supports the mission of Nicholls State University by seeking gifts and grants and managing those funds and other assets to support the school through endowed chairs, professorships, scholarships, and other enhancement offers.

If any reader is interested in learning more about The Nicholls Foundation or making a bequest to become a member of The Oaks Society, it’s suggested that they visit visit www.nichollsfoundation.org or contact Becker at 448-4006.

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