The Urban Conservancy’s 2019 Urban Heroes Awards Luncheon was held Friday, February 15th 2019 in the beautifully restored Art-Deco Lakefront Airport.

Honorees were recognized for their role in shaping a vibrant and resilient New Orleans.

Photo Gallery 

2019 Urban Hero

Chuck Morse, Executive Director, Thrive NOLA

2019 Honorees

Carol Bebelle, Co Founder & Executive Director, Ashé Cultural Arts Center

Leah Chase, Executive Chef, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant

Paul Soniat,  Director, New Orleans Botanical Garden

Leonetta Terrell, Community Advocate, Friends of the Lafitte Greenway

Keynote Speaker

Ghassan Korban, Executive Director, Sewerage & Water Board


Date:          Friday, February 15, 2019

Time:         12:00-1:30pm

Location:  Walnut Room, Lakefront Airport

                     6001 Stars and Stripes Blvd  |  New Orleans, LA  70126

Doors open at noon and lunch will begin promptly at 12:30pm. Cash bar included.

Honoree Bios

Carol Bebelle is the Executive Director and Co-founder of Ashé Cultural Arts Center. Founded in 1998, Ashé became a pivotal force for the revitalization and transformation of Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.  Celebrating its 20 year anniversary this year, Ashé in two decades has expanded arts and other events to multiple properties it owns, added rental apartments, continued broad programming for community members of all ages and added a permanent Visitor’s Center and the Diaspora Boutique.

Carol is a native New Orleanian who, after 20 years in the public sector, established a private consulting firm that specialized in planning, development, and grant writing.  Through this work, Carol realized that the power of culture and creativity combined would help to unleash progress, improvement, and economic inclusion for under-represented community members.

Carol is a poet whose work appears in several anthologies and is the author of In A Manner of Speaking.  She serves on several local and national boards. 

Leah Chase is the Executive Chef of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, where she has fed luminaries such as Quincy Jones, Jesse Jackson, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, Ray Charles, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Mrs. Chase moved to New Orleans from segregated Madisonville, LA to attend high school, eventually waiting tables in the French Quarter.  She married local musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr. in 1946, and they later took over the Orleans Avenue established sit-down restaurant his father had opened- originally as a street corner stand selling lottery tickets and homemade po’boy sandwiches. Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was one of few places in New Orleans where mixed race groups were known to assemble to organize the local Civil Rights Movement.  Mrs. Chase has participated in countless political campaigns and has used her culinary talents and celebrity to raise money for a myriad of charities and services.

Mrs. Chase, known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, is the recipient of multiple awards from the NAACP and the 1997 New Orleans Times-Picayune Loving Cup award among many others.  She was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2010.

She is the author of The Dooky Chase Cookbook, And Still I Cook and Leah Chase: Listen, I Say This.  

Chuck Morse is the Executive Director of Thrive NOLA which creates jobs at its Restoration Thrift Store; helps underserved, urban entrepreneurs prosper through its Launch NOLA business academies and support services; and develops homes and community assets as Thrive Housing.

As a lead mentor for Propellor’s Startup Accelerator Program, Chuck assists businesses in the water industry grow their ideas, startups or companies.  He is also a small business consultant for CH2M/Jacobs, an international engineering company that employs integrated, sustainable solutions to solve complex water challenges across the entire water cycle.

Chuck’s prior positions include the Assistant Secretary in the Louisiana Office of Tourism, Special Assistant to the President at Washington Convention and Tourism Corporation, Marketing Director for the Bayou Classic, and Director of Membership Development with the Washington DC Convention and Tourism Corporation.

Chuck is Associate Minister at Pleasant Zion Baptist Missionary Church.

Paul Soniat is the founding Director of New Orleans Botanical Garden whose innovations include Celebration in the Oaks, the Japanese Garden, Train Garden, Shade Garden and Natives Garden.  Paul has overseen restorations of historic buildings, gardens and significant sculptures in the garden. He also instituted the Thursdays at Twilight Garden Concert Series.  

Under Paul’s leadership, the New Orleans Botanical Garden has grown from a staff of two and a $10,000 annual budget to a staff of 21 and annual revenue of more than $1.5 million dollars. Annual visitors to Celebration in the Oaks alone number 400,000 per year.

Paul is a New Orleans native, songwriter and musician who has produced three albums.

Leonetta Terrell was a founding Board Member of Friends of Lafitte Greenway and remains a an active member of its Community Engagement Committee.

Leonetta is a practicing social worker with decades of experience, most recently counseling Harmony House Senior Center residents.  She was named 2010 Social Worker of the Year by New Orleans Association of Black Social Workers.

Leonetta puts her accounting skills to use as the Krewe of Rameses’ financial secretary.  She belongs to IPBO Elks of the World, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Gam Phi Delta Sorority.  Leonetta is active in her Tremé neighborhood and is a parishioner of St. Peter Claver Church.


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