Benny Cenac, Houma philanthropist and owner of Cenac Marine Services, has always been a big supporter of the Bayou Community Foundation (BCF). Rightfully so, as it has invested more than $1 million in grants for critical community needs since 2013. Cenac had a large part in the creation of the foundation as he secured the initial funding given from The Gheens Foundation totaling upwards of $250,000 which was used to jumpstart it. The Gheens Foundation, Inc. was established in 1957 by C. Edwin and Mary Jo Gheens to continue their lifelong interests in education, religious programs and human services. Mr. Gheens, a Louisville native whose father and uncle were successful in the wholesale grocery business, was the owner of a large, successful candy manufacturing company in Louisville. The family also owned a working plantation in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana which was rich in mineral resources.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Gheens were leaders in their church and active in other philanthropic, educational, and cultural endeavors in Louisville. After Mr. Gheens’ death in 1961, Mrs. Gheens selected several friends to serve as Foundation Trustees. The trustees continued to oversee the work of the Foundation after her death in 1982. At that time, foundation assets were valued at approximately $23,000,000.
The Gheens Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in Kentucky. The Trustees oversee approximately $6.5 million in grants annually. Most of the grants are made in the Louisville area and support a wide variety of endeavors, including public education, economic development, medicine, the arts and social/health services. The Gheens Foundation has distributed over $118,000,000 in charitable grants since its inception and today is valued at approximately $147,000,000.
Their mission? Much like Arlen “Benny” Cenac, Jr.’s mission for his community: “To improve the quality of life for all citizens and institutions of Metropolitan Louisville and Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes in Louisiana by creative grant-making and philanthropic leadership to meet the present and emerging needs of our communities.”
Since the initial securement of funds by Cenac from The Gheens Foundation, Mr. Benny Cenac, Houma businessman and philanthropist, has donated $10,000 yearly to help ensure the program has what it needs to continue serving the community. As an avid community enthusiast, Mr. Cenac was thrilled when the BCF announced “grants totaling $230,000 to 29 non-profit organizations working in Lafourche, Terrebonne, and Grand Isle as part of the foundation’s largest grant program to date.”
“Today is an awesome day of celebration for BCF as we award grants for nonprofits that are changing people’s lives for the better and making our entire Bayou Region an even better place to live and work. We always say that Lafourche, Terrebonne and Grand Isle are special communities, and these 29 grant awards demonstrate the care and compassion we have for our fellow residents and our commitment to strengthening this unique place we call home,” said BCF Chairman Dr. James Leonard.
Benny Cenac, Houma entrepreneur has had a passion for supporting services, education, workforce development and coastal preservation for years. He is known for donating resources to these causes both personally and professionally. Therefore, the Bayou Community Foundation holds a very high level of importance to the Houma, LA based entrepreneur. Since the birth of BCF in 2012, the foundation has been focused on building and sustaining our Lafourche, Terrebonne and Grand Isle communities by supporting local nonprofits that help our neighbors in need, provide educational opportunities to residents, and work to preserve our valuable coast. This year’s grants will fund innovative programs that fill critical needs in our community by providing mental health care and addiction recovery programs, food and medicine for the poor and elderly, advocates for children in foster care, and tutoring and mentoring programs for at-risk youth, just to name a few.
Gifts from the Gheens Foundation, local family foundations, and other generous local donors support BCF’s grant-making program, focused on addressing the region’s most critical needs. Since 2013, BCF has awarded $1,012,270 in competitive grants to local nonprofits working in human services, education, workforce development, and coastal preservation. The organization also conducts workshops for nonprofit organizations, coordinates the “Give Bayou” online giving effort, and conducts other programs designed to sustain and strengthen local nonprofits and our precious coastal community.
For more information on the BCF, click here.