Ongel Aldridge
Board Member
Maria Placer

Born in Valencia, Spain, Maria is not a native of Southwest Louisiana, but one of her favorite honors is to have been labeled, "Acadiana's Adopted Daughter". In 1963 her father accepted a position teaching languages at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL would later be renamed, becoming The University of Louisiana at Lafayette) and Maria transferred from The University of Kentucky to finish her degree in Political Science at USL. She returned a few years later to earn a Masters in Political Science. In 1966, in what was to be a temporary job, she was hired at KLFY-TV 10 as a receptionist. She was soon promoted to head the continuity department, creating the daily, station logs, writing advertising copy, and doing on-air work. She was promoted to the News Department in 1970, becoming the first woman reporter and anchor in the history of television broadcasting in Louisiana. During the next thirty-five years, she rose up the ladder, earning promotions to area editor, city editor, assignment's editor, assistant news director, news director, vice president of news, and finally, station manager. She was known as, "The First Lady of News", successfully handling every type of story, from political coverage, to overseas travel documentaries, to peacefully negotiating the takeover of a prison be inmates. Her coverage won her acclaim and awards from the local, to the regional and national levels. But, the dearest to her heart was a program started in 1982, featuring older, handicapped, and biracial children in need of homes. The success of the program also ranged from local to national, winning Maria a "Points of Lights" designation from President George Bush, Sr. and an "Adoption Advocate" award created by the Louisiana Department of Community Service in her honor, and now given annually. In, 2008 Maria retired from KLFY-TV 10 and became the Executive Director of the Southwest Louisiana Information and Referral Center, Inc. 232-HELP\LA211, as the agency is known throughout the state, is a service organization, dispensing information to those in need, and referring them to agencies which can aid them. In dire cases, 232-HELP\LA211 handles the emergency itself. LA211 is a resource line which in times of crisis, such as the 2008 Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, becomes, by order of the Governor, the information outlet for shelter information, as well as road conditions, and availability of hotel/motel housing, food, gasoline, medical help, etc. Throughout her career Maria has been active in a number of community and state organizations. Currently she serves as: Vice-President of the Louisiana Alliance of Information & Referral Services (LaAIRS); member of the Louisiana Coordinating 211 Council; Board of Directors of University Medical Center; an advisory member of the Lafayette Community Health Clinic; a member of Goodwill Enterprises of Acadiana, Inc.; on the support group for adoptive and foster parents - Adopt Older Kids; an honorary member of the local Veteran's Organizations; on the committee to select Lafayette's annual Distinguished Citizen (only former honorees serve); member of Lafayette Parish Homeland Security/Emergency Preparedness Council, and on the board of the Louisiana Emergency Medical Unit, Inc. (LEMU).