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."
Mike Harson's coffers show the advantage of incumbency.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote on an ordinance for final adoption Tuesday that, if approved, would give the city the green light to take over a stretch of Verot School Road from the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The Louisiana Association of Educators filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million in spending through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
He's been out of office for nearly a decade, but former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is back on the campaign trail, urging voters to support his one-time colleague, Democrat Mary Landrieu.
The unresolved fate of the ashes left behind after Ebola waste was destroyed in Texas highlights the problem U.S. hospitals and communities could face in disposing of their own waste.
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.