Catholic charity facing ‘devastating loss' after UW cut

by Walter Pierce

Administrators at Lafayette Catholic Service Center are scrambling today to fill a $67,500 funding shortfall for two programs that aid the homeless and economically distressed.

Administrators at Lafayette Catholic Service Center are scrambling today to fill a $67,500 funding shortfall for two programs that aid the homeless and economically distressed after getting word from United Way of Acadiana that its grant funding for those programs is being eliminated.

In a Monday e-mail, LCSC Executive Director Kimberly Boudreaux informed staff members that $37,500 for the Monsignor Sigur Center and $30,000 for St. Joseph Shelter for Men were being discontinued by United Way of Acadiana. "This is a devastating loss to our organization and most importantly to the poor and homeless who benefit from our shelter and emergency services," Boudreaux says in the e-mail.

"It's frustrating for us also," says UWA Executive Director Margaret Trahan. "Obviously, when we raise more dollars, then these kind of situations don't happen. They have very good programs, so it's not a reflection on those programs. It's just a limited amount of resources and a highly competitive process, so it makes it tough some times."

While the aforementioned LCSC programs will not receive United Way grant funding in 2010, four other programs operated by the Catholic charity are receiving PACT United grants totalling $57,500. In addition, according to Trahan, LCSC is receiving $13,642 in direct donations from UWA donors, brining the total sum of support for LCSC through UWA to $71,142.

United Way of Acadiana distributes more than a million dollars in grants annually. But in 2008, UWA adopted a Plan of Action for Community Transformation United, commonly known as PACT United. PACT represented a shift in UWA's funding formula for area non-profits, with a focus on education, earnings and essentials. Some agencies like Boys Scouts of America that had been longtime beneficiaries of UWA funding saw their grants severely diminished or eliminated entirely while other agencies that focus on the three E's were brought on board and awarded grants.

Last year UWA funded 53 programs offered by 29 organizations across Acadiana - essentially the same number of agencies and programs that were funded by UWA in 2008, but with a more sharpened focus. Trahan says the downturn in the economy, which has crimped the contributions to and spending power of non-profit agencies around the country, hasn't been as severe here. "Our 2009 campaign was flat. We consider that a major victory, that we were able to raise as much money as we did in 2008. But what did change was we offered wide open donor choice, so the amount of unrestricted dollars that we had discretion over for PACT grants did change somewhat."

PACT United grant awards, which are based on 2009 fundraising, were announced Monday by United Way of Acadiana. The organization this year is underwriting 38 programs to the tune of nearly $1.7 million dollars. Fifteen percent of the programs are new receipients of UWA grant.

Lafayette Catholic Service Center, meanwhile, is facing some daunting challenges with two of its seven charities. "We will be forced to make difficult budget decisions that will inevitability reduce the quantity and quality of our services," Boudreaux says in Monday's e-mail. "We hope through community support, we will overcome a portion of this deficit. However, we have now lost $94,400 in the past two years from United Way of Acadiana, and it is simply too quick and substantial of a loss to not directly impact services."