Thursday, February 14, 2013

Volunteerism is a core value for this leader

Meet David Hearn, 2013 LRA Chair

David Hearn, 2013 LRA Chair and
wife Janet.
As the sun rises on the tenure of 2013 Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Chair David Hearn, he has tallied up his commitment this year to the industry, which will be nearly 100 days. When it comes to service to Louisiana’s restaurant industry, Hearn has the market cornered. In addition to his position on the LRA State Board, he’s also a director for the LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) and a trustee for the LRA Self Insurer’s Fund for Workers’ Compensation (LRA SIF).

“David is an individual who is absolutely committed to community service,” said Stan Harris, LRA President/CEO. “This kind of dedication to the LRA is truly legendary. Being around someone who has this kind of philosophy on giving back is inspiring and contagious.” 

As LRA Chair, Hearn will lead four State Board meetings; represent Louisiana at the Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. and install all nine LRA Chapter Boards during each annual Awards Banquet and Officer Installation. There are four meetings each he’ll participate in with the LRA SIF and the LRAEF. This year, the first LRA Board Meeting is in conjunction with the Louisiana ProStart® Competition.

“ProStart is the coolest thing we do as an association for the future of our industry,” said Hearn. “To see high school students compete in the Culinary and Management Competitions is impressive and I wanted all of our board members to see the students in action. If ProStart would have been around when I was in high school, I would have definitely taken it to complement working in my family’s restaurant.”

At the young age of 11, Hearn found himself working as a busboy at his family’s restaurant, Catfish Cabin, in Monroe. As he matured, he learned the ropes of the front of the house during high school and as he entered college, he moved on to experience the back of the house operations. When David married Janet Clark in 1982, the timing was perfect for him to take a job outside the family restaurant in institutional grocery sales where he stayed for the following 12 years.

“Leaving the restaurant was hard, but the job really found him,” said Janet Hearn. “He met so many people and his perspective on life and business was really broadened. He grew so much personally and professionally.”

Hearn spent those 12 years working with restaurateurs on purchasing, products and profitability. The knowledge he gained during that time, paired with what he’d learned previously working in the restaurant was definitely a benefit to his family and their business. 

“As it happens in many family restaurants, there comes a time when the parents want to reduce their hours for a more balanced life and focus on their health and happiness,” said Hearn. “That was the case in 1994, when my dad asked me to come back and run the business with my brother, James Jr. and my sister, Patricia.”

In 2000, Hearn’s dad became unable to continue his service on the LRA State Board because of health reasons. As a result, he stepped up to represent the family on the Northeast Chapter Board. Within two years, he was elected as the Northeast Chapter President and in 2003, he was nominated to the LRA State Board.

Service to others was instilled in him by his parents early on. Between working at the restaurant on average 60 hours a week, his LRA activities and the 25-plus volunteer hours a month he puts in as a Union Parish Reserve Deputy, he sometimes has to budget time for Janet, and his daughters, Natalie and Rachel. 

“David always makes time for me and our daughters,” said Janet. “Several days a week, between lunch and dinner service, he and I, along with his parents and siblings sit at the ‘family’ table at the restaurant and have a meal together. “

The Hearns spend an evening or two a week together when David is off and on the nights that he may have a catering job, Janet will go with him and help out—just to spend time with him. They enjoy vacations, going to the movies and going out to dinner. She travels with him to LRA Board Meetings and to the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO each August.

One of Hearn’s mentors, LRA Past Chair and Waterfront Grill owner Don Weems said, “Whatever good is going on in Monroe, the Hearn’s are right in the middle of it.” Weems and Hearn met more than 20 years ago at University of Louisiana at Monroe. Weems worked in the Student Affairs and Hearn was a dedicated volunteer.

“David is just a great example of the ultimate volunteer,” said Weems. “He’s such a positive person who always works for better results in all aspects of his life and what he does truly comes from the heart.”

Weems shared that Hearn also volunteered as a mentor to a young man named Kyle with the Louisiana National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, which offers at-risk adolescents an opportunity to change their future through teamwork, discipline, academic excellence and personal growth. The five-month residential military-like school helps students achieve high school equivalency diplomas and become productive and responsible members of society.

“My dad was definitely a father figure to Kyle,” said Rachel Hearn. “Kyle’s mom, who works at the restaurant, asked my dad if he would be Kyle’s mentor in the program and he didn’t hesitate.”

Above all that Hearn has accomplished, he’s most proud of his daughters.

“He’s always out doing something in the community and for the LRA,” said Natalie Hearn. “Growing up, he and Mom were at every school function and meeting and encouraged us to volunteer and participate in activities.”

David Hearn takes that same attitude with him as he begins his journey as 2013 LRA Chair, and hopes he can also inspire fellow members to heed that call of volunteerism as well.



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