The Boy Scouts of America’s Evangeline Area Council, representing the eight-parish Acadiana region, has cut ties with the United Way of Acadiana in what may be the most amicable divorce ever. The kids will come through it OK, but it’s a divorce nonetheless. The split ends a long marriage; Boys Scouts of America was a founding agency of United Way. At issue is UWA’s adoption last year of its Plan of Action for Community Transformation United, more commonly called PACT United, which comprises a new priority for how it distributes funding to non-profit agencies in Acadiana. The priority shift has left some agencies that were once beneficiaries of United Way largesse scrambling to fill voids in their coffers.
“If you think of it just as pure market competition,” says Evangeline Area Council President-elect Gary McGoffin, a Lafayette attorney, “we are in direct competition [for funding] with United Way and we want to differentiate our brand. It may not be a real pretty way of saying that, but that’s what it comes down to.”
The split locally between Boy Scouts and UWA was made official in the last week after the Evangeline Area Council’s board of directors voted to break off ties. But the genesis of the split begins with UWA’s adoption of PACT United over the last 18 months. PACT focuses on “three Es”: education (to improve the graduation rate), earnings (to build financial stability) and essentials (to help people meet their own basic needs). And now, instead of simply divvying funding among partner organizations that do good works in the community, UWA focuses with PACT on funding programs that address education, earnings and essentials. “The bottom line is,” says Margaret Trahan, UWA executive director, “we all win when a child succeeds in school, when families are financially stable and people can meet their own basic needs.”
But UWA’s shift in funding priorities has not come without some “growing pains,” as Trahan puts it, although its overall financial contribution to local non-profits has hardly changed. Seven longtime UWA partner agencies were not funded this year, including Boy Scouts, but five new agencies came on board. In 2008, it funded 58 programs offered by 33 organizations. This year, 29 organizations and 53 programs are receiving PACT United grant awards. These include education programs offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs, Junior Achievement and the Lafayette Education Foundation; the community pharmacy program offered by the Lafayette Community Health Care Clinic; and the Vermilion Council on Aging’s home-delivered meals program. Beneficiaries are both secular (Acadia [Parish] Council on Aging) and religious (Lafayette Catholic Service Centers).
Yet some Acadiana non-profits that once relied on UWA funding, and which submitted applications for PACT United grants, are facing a funding shortfall and the grim decisions that go along with it. “We’ve got about three months of working capital,” explains Dr. David Barczyk, a Lafayette chiropractor who serves as president of the board of Stuller Place. Stuller Place, which operates the Children’s Advocacy Center (for victims of sexual and physical abuse) and the Sexual Abuse Response Center, relied on UWA for about 10 percent of its funding. But UWA determined that Stuller Place, while inarguably doing good in the community, does not benefit the three Es.
About a month ago, Stuller Place sent out a desperate plea for help, and the community responded: individual donations of $12,000 and $10,000, a donation of 100 teddy bears (given to clients at the Children’s Advocacy Center) from Amy’s Hallmark, and a $5,000 donation from District Attorney Mike Harson generated through his annual golf tournament. Eight-year-old Adrienne Wyble, a second grade student at Sacred Heart Elementary, even donated her birthday and allowance money totalling $191.73.
Stuller Place may have to pull back its operations from the Acadiana region and focus on Lafayette, but in the meantime, the recent donations were heaven-sent. “I choose to call it God,” says Faith Moody, Stuller Place’s executive director. “I think God is going to take care of this place.” Faith indeed. Moody says Stuller Place will soldier on in a post-PACT world and look elsewhere for funding. “It’s imperative that people do support the fundraising effort so that we can make up for that lapse,” she says, “because our children cannot go without these services, they simply cannot.”
There has been some grumbling in the community that because non-profits that may have been personal favorites are no longer being funded, donations would be given directly to the non-profits instead of to UWA. But Trahan says the response to PACT United thus far has been strong, both in sentiment and donations. “We understand right now that some supporters of organizations that did not earn a PACT grant award are disappointed. I’m just hoping that once the emotions settle and people have a chance to consider the work that United Way is doing, and that is to ensure that more children graduate from high school and their families are financially stable, that that will be something that will have meaning for them and that they will continue to support United Way.”
The Evangeline Area Council Boy Scout’s funding through UWA went from an annual average of $100,000 to $11,000 this year, according to McGoffin, and what the group did receive was through UWA donors who checked off Boy Scouts on their UWA pledge cards, indicating they wanted at least part of their UWA donation to go to Boy Scouts. But the Evangeline Area Council received no PACT United funding, although an application was submitted. “You can’t leave 10 percent of your general fund budget in the air until the first quarter of the budget year to see if you’re going to get it or not,” explains McGoffin. “How do you fund, how do you plan for that? It’s just not practical.” So the local Boy Scouts are pitching camp outside the UWA park. They’ve asked UWA to remove references to Boy Scouts from UWA promotional materials and pledge cards because council board members thought that would create confusion. “We want to make it clear to people,” McGoffin says, “that if they support scouting, and we certainly encourage everyone to do that, then the way they do that is by donating directly to the scouts, rather than through the United Way. And if you donate to the United Way, we want to make sure that people understand that now, going forward, a contribution to the United Way is not going to translate to a contribution to the scouts.”
The split between the Evangeline Area Council Boy Scouts and UWA is a local phenomenon, as boy scouts councils around the country remain vital members of their local United Ways. McGoffin still supports UWA, even as the two groups now find themselves competing for Acadiana’s altruistic dollars. “We applaud the three pillars that they’ve adopted and focused on for their efforts,” say McGoffin, “They’re a tremendous asset to our community.” And McGoffin says local scouts will continue to lend a hand at United Way events whenever called upon, in keeping with the scouting ideal of service. “I know there’s disappointment on both sides of the equation right now,” he says. “But the goal of both organizations is to strengthen our community, and that’s why it’s so important that we keep the lines of communication open and have these discussions.” And both groups are leaving the door open to reuniting at some point in the future.
A divorce, yes, but joint custody on many weekends.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.