To look back on 2020, it was a year that reminded many people of the unexpected, unprecedented and unrewarding nature of life. A tumultuous election cycle, social and civil unrest, record breaking natural disasters and a global pandemic tested the mettle of many nationwide. Louisiana specifically dealt with many of these issues, some even simultaneously. After beginning to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 transmission in June and July, it was then faced with one of the most active hurricane seasons on record. In total, eight named storms had formed in the Gulf of Mexico, with six of them making landfall in Louisiana, most notably Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 hurricane that caused widespread damage and distress statewide. Despite the various hardships the people of Louisiana faced this past year, the residents of the bayou region have been able to move forward and come together to provide assistance and relief to those in need, with the help of one local organization. This is where the Bayou Community Foundation stepped in.
The Bayou Community Foundation (BCF) was formed in 2012 in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, and the BP Gulf Oil Spill in 2010. Their mission, “To strengthen our local capacity to create a compassionate and sustainable coastal community for generations to come,” is accomplished through the foundation’s continued commitment to education, coastal protection, human services and disaster relief. BCF is the only foundation specifically serving Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes as well as the city of Grand Isle. BCF works closely with local nonprofits and residents to coordinate relief and assistance in times of need through grant awards and donations. For example, in 2020 alone BCF awarded grants totaling over $800,000 used to support the bayou region.
Executive Director Jennifer Armand explained that the bayou region needed a way of accepting donations and relief specifically for the community, not just in the wake of emergencies, but for further improvement of the community as well.
“Our community needed a bucket to accept donations before, during and after crisis events like those hurricanes, and that was really the impetus of BCF being formed because after Katrina and Rita particularly, as millions of dollars were coming into our state from all over the world, our area did not have a community foundation to be able to accept those donations and allow the money to stay right here,” Armand said. “We knew that you could not just exist for emergencies. It was up to us to help build up the community during good times as well as bad.”
In March of this past year during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, BCF was setting its budget for the year, and many soon realized that there was much work that needed to be done.
“We opened the Bayou Recovery Fund at the end of March and we were just so grateful for the outpouring of support by donors to that fund. It just continued and continued, and we were able to offer three rounds of Covid relief grants, something we obviously never expected at the beginning of March,” Armand said.
BCF rolled out three rounds of COVID-19 relief grants in April, June and October of last year. In total, BCF awarded $616,770 in COVID-19 relief grants. These grants were used for things such as food, mask and supply distribution, rent, mortgage and utility assistance, as well as employment assistance to various nonprofit groups in the bayou region.
After Hurricane Laura made landfall on Oct. 28, BCF opened its Bayou Recovery Fund the next day to begin accepting donations for their Hurricane Zeta Relief recipients. At a Dec. 7 meeting to announce Hurricane Zeta Relief grants, President Henry Lafont described the impact that this relief had on the community.
“Just as we saw with our COVID-19 relief efforts, companies, family foundations and individual donors responded quickly and generously with gifts to the Bayou Recovery Fund for Hurricane Zeta Relief,” Lafont said.
BCF awarded nine grantees a total of $57,900 for Hurricane Zeta Relief. These grants were awarded for food distribution, rebuilding assistance and business recovery programs. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana as well as The Al Copeland Foundation funded parts of these grants directly. These grantees included:
For more information about the Bayou Community Foundation, please visit https://www.bayoucf.org. •