The long lines aren't there any more, but Executive Director Bill Charbonnet and Director Kimberly Jones say things are still far from normal. Evacuee needs have been substantial over the past four months, and Lafayette Catholic Service Centers has provided more than $300,000 in assistance to more than 5,000 families. "As soon as we receive it, we're spending it," says Jones, who points out that the center is deducting no administrative costs from hurricane donations. "Every dollar we get is distributed."
Charbonnet estimates that, for the year, donations to the center could be up by as much as 100 percent, if hurricane-related gifts are included. "The giving is very generous," says Charbonnet. "We are way up, and we have spent it all. It's not like there wasn't a need. But the problem is that our regular programs are going to suffer."
The duo says contributions for the services center's pre-existing programs ' community programs like St. Joseph Diner, the Monsignor Sigur Service Center and Opelousas' New Life Center ' have been down by as much as 50 percent for the past several months. These kinds of unsolicited, individual donations usually make up about 20 percent of the center's total cash budget of $1.3 million each year.
"I do think there's some donor fatigue out there," Charbonnet says. "But it's not because donors haven't been greatly generous. It's just that we received a tremendous amount of evacuee money in a short period of time, and those same [donors] feel like they've already given. Budget-wise, they have done what they can do."
Still, Charbonnet says December donations "look pretty good for us," and the center does have a small budget surplus from 2004 that can be tapped if necessary to cover payroll and maintenance projects like a new leak in the roof. "I hate using up my surplus because they're so hard to come by, but I'm not saying I'm overly concerned," says Charbonnet. "It is hurting us today, and if it doesn't get better, then it will become a major problem. But based on history, I'm assuming that three, six months from now, things will be back to normal. We noticed it with the tsunami. I think after 9/11 was a very comparable situation. It squeezes us very, very tight. But I think [donors] come back."
United Way of Acadiana has had to stage its own comeback of sorts. Executive Director Margaret Trahan says the agency's annual fundraising campaign was launched Sept. 1, mere days after Hurricane Katrina struck southeast Louisiana. "We did not yet realize the full impact that Katrina would have on our area," Trahan says. "We immediately put it on hold for a month."
By October, United Way was ready to slowly resume its campaign but found that some local businesses were not. "Not until November were we really able to resume our momentum," says Trahan, who characterizes this year's push as producing "mixed results" so far. "We've found that some companies' donations are way up, and others are down considerably. What it comes down to is how connected a local operation is to New Orleans, in terms of location, commerce and so on."
A few days before Christmas, United Way had raised approximately 80 percent of its $3.2 million goal and planned to extend its fundraising season into January. The storms haven't only changed the organization's timetable. "We've changed what we are talking about," says Trahan. "We are talking about long-term recovery and about the services we provided pre-hurricane. We are talking about an expanded community with an expanded set of needs and a new set of challenges."
Other nonprofits in the area ' indeed, across the country, according to a recent CNN report that documented shortfalls for charities as far away as Washington, D.C. ' face similar challenges. According to Acadiana Red Cross Director Tony Credeur, his chapter is currently experiencing an approximate $50,000-$60,000 shortfall, money crucial to being able to continue to provide emergency communication services to military families and to respond to other local disasters that might occur, such as house fires. "People have been incredibly generous in response to the storms, and we want to thank them for that," says Credeur. "But we have to look at local operations and make sure we are keeping them financially solvent so that they are there the next time we need them for a local emergency." To bridge his budget gap, Credeur says the chapter is tightening its belt and exploring special events and a fundraising campaign of its own.
Even groups that aren't first responders have seen a difference in the funds they are receiving. Lafayette Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Melinda Taylor recently received a $375,000 check from the Houston-based Apache Corp. The company, which has operations in Lafayette and Houma, donated a total of $1 million in hurricane relief to the affected Habitat chapters and school districts. Taylor is grateful for the company's support and says Habitat will seek to maximize its impact for displaced families. Still, she worries about those who were already in the pipeline for assistance. "We aren't seeing a tremendous influx of undesignated monies," she says. "But we are doing everything we can to emphasize the fact that there were people here in need before the storm."
The Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations is joining her on that mission. The group's Web site home page now includes a special donation message ' "In this time of need, LANO urges you to give local" ' and a link to its member organizations. President and CEO Melissa Flournoy says she isn't doing this to necessarily counter some vague notion of donor fatigue. "The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University has suggested that there has actually been more charitable giving in the past four months," she says. "So what we want to do is to encourage giving to local nonprofits and not just to larger relief organizations. Because we simply must sustain the nonprofit sector in each of our local communities. We want to remind people to give to those groups that were helping people in communities across the state before the storms."
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Fifa under fire for fake turf plans; freed journalist back home; corporate conversions rising and more national and international news for Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her lead GOP challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy are running close when it comes to money. Landrieu has $5.5 million to Cassidy’s $5.6 million in the bank.
With expectations mounting that Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon announce his campaign for president, attention is turning to not only who he will bring along with him but also what will transpire politically back home during the transition.
Seven of the 11 U.S. cities in a new ranking of “most dangerous diets” are in the Bayou and Lone Star states, but the ranking is more about poverty than fried oysters.
Lafayette police are investigating a fatal shooting involving an alleged burglar and homeowner.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham got the message from the NFL. He's not dunking footballs over goal posts any more.
With qualifying over, the start of campaign season is official, and for the Lafayette Parish School Board, the race toward Nov. 4 will pit 20 candidates in battles for all 9 of the district’s available seats.
An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election Friday the same as any other candidate, filling out paperwork and handing over cash to pay his qualifying fee. But he finished it quite differently, doused with ice.
The recent release of Victor White III’s autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“Candidates for Congress and members of Congress spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back into power.”
Over the last four days of the trial against attorney Daniel Stanford, there’s been one notable absence from Judge Elizabeth Foote’s courtroom: attorney Bill Goode.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Nick Toon are not on the same page yet, and time is running short for Toon to get it right.