Cenla’s Non-Profits: Taking Care of Our Own

90

As we approach the holiday season, we have much to give thanks for across Cenla. One of those things, in particular, is the amazing assortment of nonprofit agencies and organizations in our area that do good works year-round. These dedicated groups of people work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all, across the entire spectrum of our diverse population. According to a 2009 report by Dr. Carol J. De Vita and Katie L. Uttke commissioned by the Rapides Foundation, the typical nonprofit (excluding religious congregations and medical organizations) achieves this good work on modest budgets. Additionally, Cenla hosts the smallest percentage of nonprofit organizations in the state, with our region serving as home to only about 6% of the total nonprofit organizations in the state, and accounting for only about 4% of the total assets held by nonprofits statewide.

On average, only about 20% of nonprofits’ budgets goes towards administrative costs. While low overhead is admirable and desirable, this means that many of these organizations rely heavily on the generosity of donors, in terms of financial support and donated resources such as goods, services and volunteer hours. In addition, they do all of this in a day when competition for charitable dollars has increased significantly, and fundraising has grown more challenging. While the challenges are many, so are the opportunities and rewards.

Grantmaking organizations are key in helping to meet the ever-growing financial needs of Cenla’s nonprofit originations of all sizes. Every year, the Central Louisiana Community Foundation (CLCF) expands its offerings to the region. The CLCF just completed granting the annual Central Louisiana Community Impact Award by providing funding for Re-Entry Solutions of Alexandria and Red River Charter Academy of Marksville. This year, CLCF hosted the first ever Community Impact Challenge. This two-week giving event allowed the community to participate in a competitive funding event which benefited their favorite charities with the money they gave and additional cash prizes from CLCF. In March of 2018, CLCF will expand this event to have an even greater impact!

The CLCF vision is to connect donors to priorities they care about and increase charitable giving to advance the quality of life in the Central Louisiana Region. In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, the foundation granted over $1,600,000 to charitable organizations. Through these grants CLCF supported the arts, education, historical preservation, healthcare, and the youth, providing vital programs and critical needs to Central Louisiana. For more information contact CLCF at cenlacf@clcf.net.

Since its creation in 1994, The Rapides Foundation has sought to improve the health status of Central Louisiana by funding grants and developing initiatives and strategies that are intended to impact our community for decades to come. The Rapides Foundation was formed as a result of a joint venture partnership between Rapides Regional Medical Center and Columbia HCA. The Foundation’s legacy of healthcare shapes who it is today and how it behaves as an organization.

The Foundation serves a nine-parish region of Central Louisiana including Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn. Since grantmaking began in 1995, The Rapides Foundation has disbursed more than $200 million in grants. The mission of The Rapides Foundation is to improve the health status of Central Louisiana. To support that mission, the Foundation focuses its work in three strategic areas: Healthy People, to improve access to healthcare and promote healthy behaviors; Education, to increase the level of educational attainment and achievement as the primary path to improved economic, social and health status; and Healthy Communities, to improve economic opportunity and family income, and enhance civic and community opportunities for more effective leaders and organizations.

At the core of the Foundation’s success is a discipline to purpose, and a sense of urgency and focus with a reliance on best practices and reportable outcomes. To determine if the Foundation is making a difference and moving the needle in a positive direction, regular Community Health Assessments are conducted to measure health indicators that form the basis of the Foundation’s work. “Improving health status can be generational work,” explained Joseph R. Rosier, Jr., President and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “But by being results-oriented and committed to continuous improvement, we hope to move the needle on health in the right direction.”

You can learn more about The Rapides Foundation through its website, www.rapidesfoundation.org, or by following the Foundation on social media.

For more than 25 years, the Food Bank of Central Louisiana has been working towards the mission of alleviating hunger in Central Louisiana. Since its inception in 1989, The Food Bank of Central Louisiana has distributed more than 112 million pounds of food to those in need in our community, with an average wholesale value of more than $187 million. The Food Bank has seven programs to provide food for those in need across our community.

The Adopt-A-Senior Program helps supplement impoverished seniors’ nutritional needs so that they are not faced with the difficult decision of choosing between medicine, rent and food. The BackPack Program provides weekend meals for low-income students across Central Louisiana. The Good Food Project is a community garden network that feeds, educates, and connects Food Bank clients and the broader Cenla community, empowering people to achieve better health through sustainable gardening and access to nutritious food.

The Kids Cafe is an afterschool program, providing free evening meals, tutoring and nutrition education to children in safe and nurturing environments. The Nutrition on Wheels Mobile Pantry Program provides mobile pantry distributions, as well as healthy cooking demonstrations, in rural and underserved communities. The Partner Agency Program consists of organizations, churches, schools, shelters, etc. who serve as points-of-distribution for the Food Bank. More than 104 nonprofits working with the Food Bank help distribute food to more than 22,400 people monthly. The School Food Pantry Program provides school children and their families with access to food for preparation at home when other resources such as free and reduced-price school meals are not available. This project is funded through a Healthy Behaviors Program Grant from The Rapides Foundation.

The Food Bank of Central Louisiana’s board and staff are so thankful for this community’s generosity and their willingness to support our hunger relief efforts by donating their time, food and financial resources. Please contact the Food Bank with any questions about our organization, or to see how you can help those in need in our community.

Did you know that Central Louisiana has a local community think tank for helping people? The United Way of Central Louisiana is a coalition of many agencies along with businesses, donors, volunteers, and anyone who wants to create lasting changes that affect us all. They convene local groups to identify the most important issues our community needs to address, and then together forge local solutions and put them into practice.

For example, education affects us all. We need more kids to graduate high school, for starters. That provides businesses with better workers and communities with better citizens. But we can’t wait until high school to start, which is why the United Way starts early by funding programs like “Parents as Teachers” at the Volunteers of America, a United Way partner agency. It offers trained coaches for teen moms with preschoolers to get them both off to a good start. The United Way also helps fund the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the YWCA to provide a wide range of afterschool and summer learning experiences.

Food, shelter, and personal safety are basic needs we all share. The United Way funds shelters and other services at the Salvation Army and Hope House, and funds the Homeless Coalition so they can provide caring staff to help homeless folks move into places of their own and make decisions that allow them to stay there. The Untied Way helped start the Family Justice Center, a new agency that cares for survivors of domestic violence, and funds the Children’s Advocacy Network and CASA.

The United Way is doing even more things in Cenla, so check their website at www.uwcl.org to find out more! Better yet, send a pledge or gift today and volunteer to Live United! The money raised here, stays here.

The YWCA of Alexandria-Pineville has been operational since 1946. For those 70 years, the Y has seen the number of women, children and families supported in Central Louisiana grow exponentially, particularly over the past several years. The mission of the YWCA is to empower women and girls and to eliminate racism. To that end, the YWCA boasts a mentoring program for young children, with the participating children meeting with their mentor once a week. It’s clear to see how much these children look forward to each visit. The daycare and afterschool programs are essential to the mission of the YWCA, providing not only a safe place for children after school, but also additional mentoring and tutoring. Likewise, the Summer Day Camp provides an exciting atmosphere for the children during their summer break.

YWCA started a Girls on the Run Council six years ago. Girls on the Run is a 10-week transformational learning program for girls in third to fifth grades. This program teaches girls how to be emotionally and physically healthy by issues that our young girls face daily while incorporating training for a 5k. The goal of the program is to build confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness. The 2017 Girls on the Run 5k will be held on November 11th.

The YWCA gym on Turner Street has a lot to offer people in our community. The therapy pool is used for swim lessons for both adults and youth, and as a tool for rehabilitation, as well as a viable exercise option for people with disabilities who are unable to exercise safely outside of water. Aquatic therapy is able to break chronic pain cycles largely because of the unique properties of water. In addition to the aquatics programs, the Y boasts basketball leagues and offers a safe and healthy environment for kids throughout the year to enjoy sports, swimming and working out.

There are a number of ways you can support your local YWCA. A Holiday High Tea will be held on Thursday, December 7th at the home of Jim & Frances Hurst. Tickets are $40.00 each and are available by calling the YWCA at (318) 442-3397. For more information on the many programs available at the Y, visit them online at ywcaalex.org.

Like the YWCA, the Junior League of Alexandria is an organization powered by women. The Junior League is committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.

October is one of the League’s busiest months. The League annually produces A Very Merry Market (AVMM), a three-day holiday shopping market filled with more than 50 fabulous that also serves as the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year. In addition to shopping, AVMM includes special events like Ladies Night, Brunch on the Bayou, Breakfast with Characters, and Cookies with Characters. Proceeds from AVMM stay in Central Louisiana to help fund League projects such as the annual League Grants awarded to various area not for profit organizations, Scholarships for Seniors for female high school seniors that excel in voluntarism, Inspiration Village for the League’s community partner Girls on the Run-Central Louisiana, leadership training for women, and the League’s 2nd annual Cenla KidzFest, which will be held in March 2018. The League’s Kids in the Kitchen program is also a part of Cenla KidzFest.

The New to You Shop, located at 2109 Lee Street in Alexandria, is one of the League’s projects not only raising money for our community, but also providing slightly worn or used clothing and household items to the community of Alexandria at an affordable price. To learn more about joining the Junior League of Alexandria, visit www.JLAlexandria.com, on social media or call (318) 443-6975.

This year, Friendship House celebrates 35 years of promoting and upholding its mission: To provide a safe and caring day program in a clean, homelike setting where adults find a renewed sense of self-worth through healthcare, socialization, and recreation. “We feel fortunate and blessed to have a wonderful, caring staff who provide a coordinated program of professional and compassionate services to those who need supervised care in a safe place outside the home during the day,” said executive director Faye Simpson. Friendship House also affords caregivers peace of mind while providing a much needed respite from the demanding responsibilities of caregiving.

Friendship House is not just a place to “pass the time.” The staff excels at providing stimulating activities including group devotionals and storytelling, music, art, physical activities/exercise, and games. Emphasis is placed on building on a participant’s former skills and developing new ones. Community volunteers are an important part of all daily activities. Through their service, these volunteers utilize their special skills, talents and experiences. An effective volunteer corps greatly enhances Friendship House’s quality programming, and the staff always welcomes individuals and groups who are interested in enriching the lives of participants. Volunteer opportunities include: artists/craftsmen, musicians, storytellers, magicians, gardeners and leaders for group projects and exercise.

Friendship House is located at 114 6th Street in Alexandria. The Center is open five days a week, Monday through Friday from 7:00am to 5:30pm. For more information, call (318)487-9504 or come by for a personal tour.

The Mission of the Arts Council of Central Louisiana (ACCL) is to enhance the quality of life in our communities by promoting, developing, and encouraging the arts in Central Louisiana. The roots of the Arts Council can be traced back to the early 1960’s. In 1980, the Rapides Arts and Humanities Council was formed with a 501c3 status. With the closure of the England Air Force Base in the early 1990’s, the Arts and Humanities Council was integrated into the city’s operations due to loss of economic funders. Then, in the mid 1990’s, as a result of the Rapides Foundation’s “Arts and Cultural Assessment”, the Arts Council of Central Louisiana made the transition to an independent non-profit organization. Since then, the ACCL has continued in its efforts to cultivate and enrich the arts in our area, working with community cultural partners and other supporters.

The ACCL was an integral part of the planning and implementation of operations of the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center. The ACCL currently manages the Performing Arts Center, as well as the Hearn Stage Black Box Theater, and the Frye Non-Profit Development Center in the Rapides Foundation Building, providing classrooms, meeting and office space for area nonprofits at affordable pricing. The Arts Council is the designated arts agency for Central Louisiana, and the Regional Development Agency for our eight parish region, responsible for administration and technical support of the Decentralized Arts Funding through the State of Louisiana, as well as the RoyOMartin Foundation. The ACCL also presents an annual performing arts season, as well as the bi-annual Artwalk in the Alexandria downtown cultural district. Last, but certainly not least, the ACCL continues to advocate for the arts on the local, regional and national level. For more information, please visit the ACCL website at louisiana-arts.org, and consider becoming a member.

What would life be without our furry, four-legged friends? Boudreaux’s Animal Rescue Krewe (B.A.R.K.) a no-kill animal rescue located right here in Central Lousisiana. B.A.R.K.’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home unwanted, neglected and/or homeless animals in our area. B.A.R.K. deems every animal adoptable, regardless of age, color or breed, fostering a belief that these animals deserve a second chance at life. B.A.R.K. was founded by husband and wife team, Julian and Eva Long, lifelong residents of Rapides Parish. Unfortunately, in Louisiana, approximately 130,000 animals enter shelters each year, and 92,000 are put to sleep while leaving thousands more to suffer in the streets. As a no-kill rescue, B.A.R.K. can only take in new pets as space allows, but with each adoption, the shelter is able to rescue another animal in need. Animal rescue is endless due to pet overpopulation. Spay and neuter is the only answer to stop the euthanasia of innocent animals. You can help by spaying and neutering your personal pets, spaying and neutering stray animals prior to adopting out, and getting involved in trap neuter and release of cats. Together as a community, we can make a difference!

If you are interested in becoming a B.A.R.K. volunteer, contributor or would like to adopt an animal, please send a message at www.facebook.com/barkanimalrescue. The shelter is always in need of dog walkers, cat caretakers, foster homes and more. An hour a week can make a difference in the lives of so many animals. If you cannot volunteer but want to help by making a donation, B.A.R.K. has a program called “Doggie Dollars and Kitty Kash” whereby donors sign up for monthly donations to assist in the rescue. All donations can be mailed to B.A.R.K., P.O. Box 404, Tioga, LA 71477.

Like B.A.R.K., Friends of the Alexandria Zoo, better known as FOTAZ, is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Cenla’s non-people citizens. The organization, whose purpose is to help promote Alexandria Zoological Park, its programs and activities, as well as aid in its continued development evolved from a Zoo committee of concerned citizens appointed by City Commissioner O’Hearn Mathews in 1970, when the USDA threatened the Zoo with closure. FOTAZ, which formed in 1971, immediately began efforts to improve the quality of the animal care and facilities.

One of FOTAZ’s primary functions is to supplement the Zoo’s budget, providing funding for the Zoo’s on-going projects involving animals, construction, staff, education, conservation, and public services. Through their efforts, FOTAZ helps ensure the continued progress of the Alexandria Zoo according to the adopted Master Plan.

FOTAZ gets is operational funding by promoting zoo special events, selling annual zoo memberships, operating the zoo gift shop, selling train tickets, renting strollers and wagons on site, and selling fish food. Personal and corporate contributions also aid FOTAZ’s budget.

There are many ways to get involved and support FOTAZ and the Zoo. Since the Zoo’s audience is so diverse, so are the membership categories, including discounted options for military. By becoming a member of FOTAZ, you’ll be helping the Alexandria Zoo and its animals while making wonderful family memories that will last a lifetime. FOTAZ memberships even reach beyond the boundaries of Alexandria Zoo. Did you know that $5.00 from every membership helps support conservation projects all over the world? Also, FOTAZ members receive free or reduced admission, plus other benefits like gift shop discounts and free parking at over 100 zoos and aquariums nationwide!

Every dollar contributed through memberships, purchasing souvenirs in the Zootique Gift Shop, monetary donations and special events such as Holiday Light Safari coming this December helps the Zoo grow and remain a vital part of our community.

With hundreds more registered nonprofit agencies like these in our area doing fantastic work, it is impossible to include them all here. Like the organizations included in this article, they do great work and need your help. This holiday season, as part of your Thanksgiving, take time to find a local nonprofit whose mission fits closely with your own interests and get involved. No matter what you like to do or where your talents shine brightest, you can help Cenla’s nonprofits continue to take care of our own!