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Lamar University to host 2011 Brooks Conference May 5

Emelie IrvingThe Lamar University Jack Brooks Chair in Government and Public Service will host the 2011 Brooks Conference Thursday, May 5, on the Lamar campus. The conference will focus on nonprofit organizations and substance-abuse issues.

Emelie Irving, executive director of the Southeast Texas Food Bank, will be keynote speaker for the event, which will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the John Gray Center. Irving will speak at a luncheon from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

The conference will bring Lamar University faculty members and students together with nonprofit, civic and government leaders who are being invited to attend, said James Vanderleeuw, Jack Brooks Chair at Lamar University and conference director.

The conference and the chair honor longtime U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks, a Beaumont Democrat who served in Congress more than 40 years.

Panels will address such topics as “Nonprofits in an Era of Increased Demand,” “Nonprofits and Educational Services,” “Faith-based Initiatives during Times of Economic Crisis,” “Nonprofits and Caring for Animals” and “Helping the Most Vulnerable.” Two other panels will focus on “Substance Abuse, Substance Abuse Treatment and Economic Conditions.”

Irving, the keynote speaker, is a lifelong resident of Beaumont and has spent her career in the nonprofit sector. She has extensive experience in administration, accounting, board and program development and volunteer management of nonprofits. The speaker attended Lamar University, where she studied nutrition education, and has been executive director of the food bank since 1998.

The Southeast Texas Food Bank serves the counties of Jefferson, Orange, Hardin, Jasper, Newton, Polk, Sabine and Tyler. It distributes to about 130 nonprofit agencies within the eight counties. More than 16,000 households receive food each month from the food bank’s member agencies, and about 200,000 meals are prepared each month with food provided by the food bank.

As executive director, Irving has overseen the growth of the organization from an annual distribution of 400,000 pounds of food per year to more than 7 million pounds in recent years. Additionally, Irving successfully began a direct-mail fund-raising campaign that now has 25,000 donors in its database. The food bank’s annual operating budget has grown to $1.9 million.

Before leading the food bank, Irving spent eight years at the American Red Cross as a military and disaster caseworker. She and her husband, Bob, who is fleet manager for Entergy, have four grown children and two grandchildren.

Jason Sides joins Vanderleeuw on the conference-organization team as program coordinator. Sides is assistant professor of political science. Crystal Petry, community outreach coordinator with the Southeast Texas Access to Recovery Services, is organizing the substance-abuse panels.

Additional information is available from Vanderleeuw at (409) 880-2288.