WHO WE ARE
Lauren Darnell is a proud native of New Orleans, LA, with a deep-seated commitment to giving back to her home state and the New Orleans community.
Lauren discovered her passion for cultivating potential in young people many years ago. In 2001, she graduated from the University of New Orleans, where she studied anthropology and women’s studies. She set her sights on London and New York and spent time living and working in each city. It was while teaching tennis to underserved youth in Harlem, NY that Lauren decided to firmly commit her career to working in the nonprofit sector.
Lauren returned to New Orleans in 2013 and founded Yoga Power Play, a non-profit developed to teach trauma-sensitive yoga and mindfulness to students. As Founding Director, she taught more than 3,500 hours of yoga in the classroom for ten schools and trained volunteers and teachers to assist in delivering the Yoga Power Play curriculum. Later, Lauren continued connecting her experiences and began teaching social studies and science at Crocker College Prep. As a teacher, she gained invaluable communication skills and learned pedagogical practices that continue to influence the way she trains and approaches her work with youth today.
In 2016, Lauren began working with Son of a Saint, a New Orleans-based organization committed to fostering the growth of young, fatherless boys through mentorship, emotional support, and skill development. Lauren helped expand the organization through acquisition of new partnerships and donors, streamlining the vetting process for mentors and mentees, and fine-tuning the tutoring, mental health and scholarship programs.
Drawn to the MiNO Foundation via a longtime personal friendship with BRG Hospitality CEO Shannon White, Lauren accepted the Executive Director position in May 2018. In this role, Lauren focuses on supporting young women and men who exhibit a passion for cooking and are determined to make a difference in their communities and greater New Orleans.
In her spare time, Lauren serves on the boards of Project Peaceful Warriors, a yoga and mindfulness program in schools, and Abeona House, a Reggio Emilia school for young children. She doesn't believe we are ever truly finished learning, so she attends annual programming and receives training at THE SPACE Como in Lake Como, Italy, where she continues to learn and hone her teaching skills with like-minded people from around the globe. She brings all she learns back home, in hopes of making life in New Orleans better for those who are in need the most. When not working on developing the MiNO Foundation or giving back to her community, she can be found spending time outdoors with her young son Tenzin, practicing yoga, and cooking.
Morgan Dugas was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana in a large cajun family where there was never a shortage for special occasions and celebrations centered around food. Growing up in the rich cultural environment of south Louisiana, she developed a deep understanding of the way community would shape her identity. Morgan's love and appreciation for the people in her community and the commitment to serving them started early on where she started clubs that were dedicated to giving back. While in high school she spearheaded a day long event called Hopefest that raised money for the formerly known as Stuller Place, a sexual trauma resource and response center for young people.
Morgan has a bachelor of Liberal Arts from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and background in social work. Her interest in liberal arts was driven by her love for people and desire to understand the experiences that connect us. This led her to her later focus in social work, which shed light on the disadvantages faced by marginalized communities and reinforced her commitment to creating opportunities for others. While interning and volunteering through multiple organizations, including St. Vincent De Paul and Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless, her love for food and serving others brought her to find a job at a restaurant, where she was reminded of the deep connections that people often make through sharing a meal.
Morgan moved to New Orleans in 2015 and began working in the front of house at Johnny Sanchez within BRG Hospitality. After two years she was managing the restaurant but saw the opportunity to turn that experience into a deeper role of service. The Made in New Orleans Foundation's mission is made up of the values that Morgan has developed during her own journey through food and community involvement and she felt a calling to continue her mission of creating opportunities for others. Morgan is thrilled to be part of a mission that she feels so deeply connected to and is looking forward to creating access to opportunities through food, mentorship, and community. She spends her free time taking hikes with her two rescued dogs, Riloh and Roxy, dining out, and spending time at her family's fishing camp.