Billi LaCombe's two year term as president of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence did not go unnoticed when it concluded earlier this year as she earned the coalition's Statewide Leadership Award.
LaCombe joined Faith House 14 years ago and has been its director the past decade. She served as president of LCADV from 2010-2012.
During her term, LaCombe made a complete makeover of the LCADV board and the organization as a whole, and initiated changes to its bi-laws, policy and the focus of the coalition.
"We kind of brought it up to date," says LaCombe.
The board formerly consisted soley of people representing the domestic violence programs across the state, but LaCombe thought its mission could be better served by diversifying.
"We needed to change that because the coalition hopefully will begin funding the programs through different opportunities," LaCombe says, adding that now the board consists of 60 percent program members and 40 percent community partners "which will be people from unrelated fields like DAs, state legislatures — people that have some influence from the state."
The state-wide coalition works on things like public policy, the Legislature, presents outlook awareness programs and provides technical assistance and training. There are 20 domestic violence programs that represent every parish in the state, says LaCombe. Faith House serves five parishes in Acadiana.
"All of our programs throughout the state have suffered with the economy," says LaCombe. "Donations are down, and grant sources are reducing every single year while the amount of work that we are doing is increasing the need for our services and it has been increasing steadily over the past five years.
"So, our coalition is really working hard to bring the resources that we need to be able to saves the lives of battered women and children in the economy."
The southern portion of Louisiana has the highest rate of domestic violence, but it also has the largest population. "So, it's all kind of relative," says LaCombe. "However, we do tend to have more domestic violence homicides and those sorts of things in the southern part of the state."
LaCombe says it is difficult to get hard numbers on this issue, but the region ranks in the top two or three where domestic violence/homicides and incidents are concerned. A little more than 2,000 people benefited from Faith House services, she says.
And while two domestic centers in the state have closed from a lack of support and funding, Faith House is standing on firm ground.
"Our community has been extremely supportive in many ways," she says. "While we have seen reductions in donations and things like that, volunteer involvement has increased significantly. So this community really believes in what we do in our work and continues to support us tremendously."