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."
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.
A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
It wouldn’t be a first, however, as the Chamber has thrown money behind Landrieu before.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.