Local charities help Acadiana bear the brunt of COVID-19 and the 2020 hurricane season

David Reed

@DavidGatesReed1

Feature photo: United Way of Acadiana (UWA) Volunteers helping to distribute food to the needy on Sept. 11. Photo provided by UWA Director of Community Engagement Blair Green.

With the coronavirus ravaging local economies across the United States and multiple hurricanes devastating parts of Louisiana, many have found themselves struggling to make ends meet. But several charitable organizations in Lafayette have gone the extra mile to help their community recover.

Here are some local organizations offering economic assistance to those who need it.

United Way of Acadiana 

United Way of Acadiana (UWA), an organization that partners with other nonprofits to provide additional funds and volunteers, partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank and ARCH Acadiana when homeless shelters started shutting down due to COVID-19 to house and feed homeless people across Lafayette, according to Director of Community Engagement Blair Green.

“At the start of COVID, as you know, most of the homeless shelters were closing, trying to contain the spread, and ARCH acted quickly to place some of their clients and individuals into hotels,” Green said.

According to Green, they are currently housing and feeding about 300 people in nine different hotels in Louisiana with UWA volunteers delivering food roughly every two weeks.    

“It’s been an exceptional program,” Green said. “And we’ve just seen some great, great turnout from volunteers through it.”

United Way of Acadiana also helped Louisianans recover from the recent hurricanes by setting up donation funds.

“And then we did a series of drives to try and raise donations for that fund that we then send out to various organizations,” Green said.

The Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA) building on Friday, Nov. 20 at 3:25 p.m. Photo by David Reed.

Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA)

LEDA, a publicly-funded organization that assists local companies seeking to expand in Lafayette, has ramped up operations since the COVID-19 shut down started last Spring.

During the spring and summer, the organization operated a helpline to help locals better understand what government assistance was available to them. According to LEDA Manager of Communication and Public Relations Stacey Zawacki, LEDA received over 2,000 calls from local business owners, employees and unemployed individuals who needed help applying for government assistance.

“In the wake of the pandemic, there were a lot of resources that came down from the federal government, and it was very unclear what the rules were and how to apply for them,” LEDA Manager of Workforce Development Ryan LaGrange said. “So that’s where we were to give them general guidance and point them in the right direction. In many cases, we were able to answer specific questions that they had on all of these programs to allow them to go to the next level in recovering their business.”

LEDA continues to offer local employers several programs designed to help create jobs in Lafayette.

One such example is their on-the-job training program where LEDA partially reimburses corporations for wages paid to new hires or existing employees seeking to expand their skill set. 

Another is the Small Business Employee Training Program that assists businesses with less than 50 employees in training. 

LEDA also hosts job fairs to help unemployed citizens find jobs. While LEDA no longer holds these events in person thanks to COVID-19, they still hold virtual job fairs regularly. 

Catholic Charities of Acadiana

Catholic Charities of Acadiana (CCA) offers a multitude of services to help Acadiana’s less fortunate. 

One such program is St. Joseph’s Diner, which distributes upwards of 15,000 meals a week to those in need, according to the CCA website. St. Joseph’s Diner also provides the food Second Harvest Food Bank distributes to the roughly 300 displaced homeless people ARCH helped place in hotels, according to Green.

They also run the Monsignor Sigur Center that offers financial assistance to individuals and families who are struggling to pay their bills. Those in need of financial help can apply for assistance by clicking here or by texting “CCA HELP” 797979. 

In addition, the CCA is collecting donations to help those who’ve been affected by Hurricane Delta and Hurricane Laura.

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