Two St. Mary Parish nonprofit organizations have each received roughly $225,000 in grant money to help parish residents put their lives back together as a result of having been impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill.
The Community Foundation of Acadiana, in partnership with the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors of New York and an anonymous donor, awarded the United Methodist Committee On Relief Sager Brown of Baldwin and the St. Mary Community Action Agency the grant funds through the Fund for Gulf Communities program.
The money is part of a $3 million package being awarded to 17 other nonprofit agencies in the Acadiana region, all of which are being awarded “to benefit communities marginalized by the 2010 Oil Spill,” according to the foundation’s website at www.cfacadiana.org.
However, participants in the program have to prove that their lives, their families’ lives or their businesses were impacted by the oil spill.
Richard LeGrier, Louisiana Circles Coordinator at Sager Brown, will administer the grant. Louisiana Circles offers low-income families opportunities and situations to improve their situation.
“Our plan is to offer mental health and addiction counseling, case management, financial literacy, employment services and financial stability,” LeGrier said.
One opportunity available is to enroll in a 10-week resource development training class called Getting Ahead. “This will prepare persons for increased prosperity through personal coaching and individualized goal-setting,” LeGrier said. “We’re here and we’re ready to help, and to answer questions.”
To apply with Louisiana Circles, persons affected by the spill in St. Mary Parish, should call (337) 923-6238, extension 255.
Almetra J. Franklin, chief executive officer of St. Mary Community Action, St. Mary CAA, said her agency will use the funds to “strengthen our community to become healthier, to grow healthier families.”
“Our goals are to work with folks to stabilize their households, to help them possibly look for work in other fields by guiding them through things like resume writing, and hopefully, to entice them to entire our culinary school,” she said.
Franklin stressed that the initiative is not based on income. Instead, the agency will rely on “accurate accounts” of how the spill affected applicants’ lives or businesses.
Jeff Beverly, housing director at the St. Mary CAA, stressed that the agency is not offering any cash assistance to persons who have suffered losses due to the oil spill.
“We want to do what we can, to prepare people to get back into employment,” he said. “However, if someone can prove they are about to be evicted from their rental property, or that their utilities have been disconnected to due to economic hardship from the oil spill, we may offer a cash stipend to get them back on their feet. But we need accurate accounts of how they have been impacted.”
Mary Brown, grant writer for St. Mary CAA, said what most excites her about the grant award is the opportunity to enroll people in the agency’s 2-year-old culinary school, which has graduated and placed 60 students in the hospitality and restaurant industry.
“This program prepares students to enter the food industry as employees, and it also lays a foundation for someone to start their own restaurant or catering business,” Brown said. “This is a growing industry and it will pay off for anyone looking to change careers, or to get work in a new field.”
Students receive a certificate upon completion of the program.
The syllabus for the class includes food safety and sanitation, knife skills and culinary history, in addition to a variety of cooking techniques. Some classes focus on the business side of the industry.
Students will get hands on experience in a real, fully equipped restaurant, and have the opportunity to visit local area restaurants.
“People tell us how they’ve always wanted to go to cooking school, but they can’t afford it. Our past graduates were excited because they achieve their goal in a much shorter time,” Brown said. “And now we can offer this opportunity to anyone who is interested, who has their livelihoods impacted by this accident in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Anyone who has been impacted by the BP oil spill, and can prove their economic hardship with accurate records, is invited to contact Andrea Broussard, at the St. Mary Community Action Agency corporate office at (337) 828-5703.