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Charitable Foundations, Part II

Charitable Foundations, Part II

When recalling dining with Mr. & Mrs. C. Edwin Gheens in Kentucky, and conducting Wi-Fi and phone interviews with lovely and cooperative ladies Kathy Knox, publicity director of the Gheens Foundation, and Jennifer Armand, coordinator of the Bayou Community Foundation, (fringe benefits for a columnist), I learned about organizations helping the less fortunate in the South Louisiana I write about.

This column concludes that story and includes lists and statistics, sometimes boring, but interesting to me and I hope to you.

I learned about philanthropists, a word I knew the meaning but not the spelling of which required conferring with Mr. Webster, which is amazing on my part because he’s been dead for eons. Fortunately he wrote a book.

I learned about the C. Edwin and Mary Jo Gheens Foundation, founded in 1957, and valued at $23 million at her death in 1982, ($145 million today), and distributor of $6.5 million in grants per year. The grants are to benefit the City of Louisville, Kentucky and the parishes of Lafourche and Terrebonne in Louisiana. Recent grants to Lafourche Parish went to:

The Bayou Lafourche Folklife and Heritage Museum; Catholic Charities Houma-Thibodaux; Central Lafourche High School and FFA; Lafourche Council on Aging; Fire District No. 1 Volunteers; Heritage Society; Mental Health Center; 4-H Foundation; Drug Court Treatment Center; Fire Protection District #2; Public Library; School Board; Sheriff’s Office; and, among others, the Bayou Community Foundation (BCF).

Ms. Knox informed me that the Bayou Community Foundation was created in 2012 by a group of business leaders and philanthropists from Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes as a donor-advised fund of the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the 2012 Gulf Oil spill, these local leaders recognized the need for a community foundation to strengthen human services, education/workforce development, and coastal preservation, and to serve as “the community bucket” for national and international assistance in the event of future emergency or natural disaster.

Also, that in 2012, the Gheens Foundation awarded them a 5-year, $500,000 challenge grant, which, combined with contributions from local donors, provided the seed money for BCF grant-making programs focused on addressing the region’s most critical needs.

BCF met the $1 million Gheens Foundation match in April 2015, nearly two years ahead of schedule.

The Gheens Foundation and many other donors continue to support the work of BCF with their gifts, particularly the organization’s annual competitive awards to nonprofits in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Grand Isle to meet critical needs in our community.

Ms. Armand gave me a list of recent BCF grants of the foundation: Casa of Lafourche and Lafourche Education Foundation, ARC, School Board, Nicholls Foundation, Friends of Drug Court, Special Education District No.1, and the Rev. Lloyd Wallace Community Center, among others.

Foundations are as American as apple pie, but some are criticized, recently one for Veterans reported to have spent over 40% of its funds on travel, meetings and entertainment, and another one coming under scrutiny during the current political debates.

Others that were proved fraudulent were convicted and disbanded. Not, and I emphasize NOT the ones referred to in this column. I did immense research on the Gheens Foundation and found not one unfavorable mention in hundreds of items going back many years.

How grants are distributed, amounts of the grants, and what equality among the entities do the by-laws require, such as the Gheens’ to benefit Louisville, Kentucky and Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes, are not for me to judge, but when a board such as BCF has such stalwart and outstanding citizens, business and professional members as Stephen Peltier, Dr. Jim Leonard, Charlotte Bollinger, Ed Bouterie and Rene Danos David, daughter of founding member, the late Al Danos, it deserves no less than the good housekeeping seal of approval or the gold medal award. But my personal knowledge of these individuals confirms them as modest and humble, so maybe just a metaphoric round of applause and a standing ovation.

Oh! I should mention that being a nonprofit organization, this writer has applied for grants from all of the above. Just kidding! I had to add some humor to this column.

Bye now!

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