Benny Cenac Supports The Bayou Community Foundation and the Completion of the First Two Homes in Dulac for Hurricane Ida Victims

The Bayou Community Foundation (BCF) and community volunteers recently celebrated the completion of the first two homes built in Dulac, Louisiana through the Foundation’s Hurricane Ida recovery programs, according to The Houma Times.

The dedication ceremony allowed for residents, state and parish leaders, and nonprofit partners to come together and celebrate the building of the first two homes to come out of the BCF’s many partnerships and recovery programs centered around Hurricane Ida. Many sponsors, donors, volunteers, and community partners collaborated to bring these two homes from being nonexistent to ribbon-cutting quality

The team at Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) built both homes in Dulac thanks to a $850,000 grant from BCF’s Bayou Recovery Fund for Hurricane Ida Relief, a $100,000 from long time BCF supporter, Benny Cenac, and other community donations.  Also contributing, was support from the Governor’s Hurricane Ida Relief and Recovery Fund.

What’s remarkable about this project is that the grant funds merely were used to purchase building materials, while the actual construction labor was provided at no cost by MDS volunteers. Outside of MDS, homeowners contributed both insurance costs and FEMA proceeds they received toward construction costs, and appliances were donated by the nonprofit, Rebuilding Together Bayou. All of this community collaboration resulted in the construction and unveiling of two homes for families, such as Abraham and Robin Parfait and their two sons, who lost their home along with all of their belongings after Hurricane Ida’s winds ripped off the roof of their family home.

Money raised for the Bayou Recovery Fund will allow MDS to ultimately construct 10 new houses and complete 40 or more major home repairs in Dulac. This will allow for 50 families to be able to return home after retreating from Hurricane Ida’s ravaging of the area.  “After Hurricane Ida made landfall here on August 29, Bayou Community Foundation recognized that our community’s recovery depended on providing homes for the neediest who lost so much. We are grateful to MDS for sending volunteers to Dulac and working with us to fill this critical housing need,” a statement from Bayou Community Foundation President, Henry Lafont, read.

Looking forward, MDS built the homes to withstand future storms that will hit the area. Ranging from two to three-bedroom homes, these houses are built for storm resilience as part of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes “Strong Homes Initiative.” This initiative provides donated services along with products to upgrade homes to be of the IBHS Fortified hurricane wind standard, meaning that these houses can withstand up to 160 MPH winds and are elevated to well above the FEMA requirements.

At the Dedication Ceremony, it was announced that multiple donations were received. According to a press release from BCF, one major donor to the BCF Bayou Recovery Fund announced a challenge grant designed to continue the funding of home rebuilding and repair work in Dulac this fall. According to The Houma Times, “the Ray & Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust Fund has committed $500,000 to support the project with the challenge that BCF raise an additional $500,000, providing at least $1 million to fund another building season with MDS beginning in October 2022.”

Benny Cenac’s support of Bayou Community Foundation

 Arlen “Benny” Cenac has been a longtime supporter of the Bayou Community Foundation and the work they do to sustain the communities of Lafourche, Terrebonne, and Grand Isle. In addition to his most recent donation of $100,000 for recovery efforts made post Hurricane Ida, he also made a sizeable donation during the height of the pandemic to assist businesses dealing with the complications of shut downs and quarantines. In addition to countless other donations and acts of support, Benny Cenac is proud to be a founding member of the Bayou Community Foundation. BCF was founded in 2012 by a group of business leaders and philanthropists who recognized a need for a community foundation to strengthen human services, education/workforce development, and coastal preservation efforts in the local area, and to assist in natural disasters and other emergencies.

If you are interested in supporting Bayou Community Foundation and the Bayou Recovery fund, please visit https://www.bayoucf.org/disaster-recovery/ to make your donation or get involved.

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Nicholls Receives Donation from Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation

The students of Nicholls State University are still seeing the effects of Hurricane Ida in their lives, but those effects aren’t being ignored by the supportive community around them. According to this news feature from the University itself, over $75,000 has been awarded to Nicholls so that affected students and their families can be supported many months after the storm has passed.  In total, both Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation have awarded Nicholls State University with a $77,760 reward to help with Hurricane Ida recovery efforts.

Colette Hirstius, Shell’s senior vice president for the Gulf of Mexico, had spoken on the long-lasting relationship between the company and the Louisiana community. She said, “The Bayou Region has been home to Shell for over 100 years and it was important to us to be able to help provide a home for Colonels and their families who lost theirs to the devastation of Hurricane Ida. We are grateful and proud to be able to provide safe, stable housing so that these students can stay in school and focus on their futures.”

Nicholls has reported that the funds will be utilized to meet the needs of students and families who have been displaced from their houses by Hurricane Ida. The funds will be used in a variety of ways, with a considerably large portion being used to provide temporary housing, address food insecurity, and give families basic living essentials like clothing, toiletries, medications, school supplies, and so much more. After the funds were awarded, processed, and tallied, it was announced that the money will cover the housing, meals, and living expenses for at least 20 students and their families, thus providing much-needed support in such unsure times.

The executive director of the Bayou Community Foundation, Jennifer Armand, said of the awarded funds, “Nicholls State University responded quickly after Hurricane Ida to provide temporary housing and meals to students, faculty and staff who lost so much during the storm. The Bayou Community Foundation is pleased to partner with Shell to support all of these important relief efforts.”

The Bayou Community Foundation, which was originally created in 2012, is the only community foundation that is specifically designed to solely serve Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, and Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Foundation was started after local leaders saw the continuing effects on the surrounding community following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. “Local leaders recognized the need for a community foundation to strengthen human services, education/workforce development, and coastal preservation efforts in our area, as well as to serve as “the community bucket” for national and international assistance in the event of a future emergency or natural disaster,” according to bayoudf.com.

As many are aware, Hurricane Ida made its landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2021, and Ida’s turbulent winds and powerful storm surges had made it so that an estimated 25 percent of homes in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish were destroyed or deemed uninhabitable. As a result, approximately two-thirds of the Nicholls State University community had reported that their homes had sustained damage from the storm, and one-in-five students reported their homes to be destroyed or uninhabitable.

The above estimates are only a small piece of the massive effects left behind by this storm as they only focus on living conditions. Many members in the Nicholls community saw access to reliable income, transportation, and much, much more disrupted by Ida, which is why this donation of over $75,000 from Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation is appreciated months after the storm.

Dr. Jay Clune, president of Nicholls State University, remarked on the donation with the following words, “many of our students and their families have literally lost the roof over their heads with estimates of weeks, months, and even longer for recovery and rebuilding efforts to truly take shape in the hardest-hit communities. Without the generosity and support of partners such as Shell and BCF, it would be impossible for Nicholls to enact our vision to be the intellectual, economic and cultural heart of the Bayou Region.” To donate towards the efforts of the Bayou Community Foundation’s Hurricane Ida Relief, click here.

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BCF Awards Second Round of Grants through Bayou Recovery Fund

Residents in the Houma-Thibodaux area recently received another round of donations through the Bayou Recovery Fund thanks to the Bayou Community Foundation, according to Houma Today.

One week following Hurricane Ida making landfall at Port Fourchon and leaving a detrimental amount of damage in its wake, the Thibodaux-based foundation known as the Bayou Community Foundation for Hurricane Ida Relief has received thousands of donations from all over, resulting in the funding of nearly $1.8 million in grants since September 5, 2021.

Now, it was recently announced that the Bayou Community Foundation has approved a second round of grants and additional funding to be distributed to nonprofits in the affected areas. Officially, nearly $1.3 million in donations will be distributed to Houma and Thibodaux area residents recovering from the Category 4 storm and an additional $1.29 million will be distributed to 17 nonprofits in Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Grand Isle.

The Bayou Community Foundation’s president, Henry Lafont, said the following in a news release regarding the second round of donations and grants being approved for distribution: “Thanks to the compassion and generosity of individual and corporate donors around the country, Bayou Community Foundation has been able to act swiftly and effectively over the past five weeks to fund programs that are filling the most urgent needs of our residents like food, water, and essential supplies. Our local nonprofits are doing amazing work to help the suffering among us.”

Since September 5th, the funds that have been disbursed to nonprofits have helped the workers and volunteers distribute hot meals, nonperishable food items, water, gasoline, clothing, hygiene supplies, cleaning instruments and agents, and much more to residents affected by the storm. In addition to the supplies stemming from the funds, the donations have also helped to secure and provide temporary housing, classroom supplies, educational equipment, and medical programs to the Southeastern Louisiana residents.

When addressing the longevity of such donations, Lafont went on to say, “we know this is just the beginning, though,” Lafont said. “As we turn the corner from relief to recovery, the Bayou Recovery Fund is positioned to help address longer-term needs in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Grand Isle like the housing crisis we now face and the mental health needs that we expect to come.”

In the future, the Bayou Community Fund is looking to raise an additional $10 million for storm recovery efforts. All donations gifted to the Fund are tax-deductible and are used to fund emergency grants to local nonprofits providing direct, critical relief, recovery, and rebuilding services in the aftermath of the hurricane to those most affected in the Bayou Region. Previously, on September 15, 2021- just a week after the fund was initiated, $449,000 in Bayou Recovery Fund Grants were awarded.

As of this second round of grants being announced to several agencies and nonprofits across southeastern Louisiana, several have commented on the announced grants such as the Executive Director of the Lafourche Education Foundation, Paula Rome, who said the following in response to the planned $100,000 grant along with the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence: “with this grant, LEF will be able to help our Lafourche schools that were hardest hit by Hurricane Ida replenish much-needed classroom supplies and equipment for our teachers and students across the parish.”

Similarly, Bob Stewart, Ph.D, Vice President of Friends of Grand Isle said of his organization’s grant, “this grant from the Bayou Community Foundation provides critical relief to our first responders who have so selflessly served Grand Isle in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The Friends of Grand Isle are committed to providing financial relief to our residents and businesses to build a stronger Grand Isle.”

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Benny Cenac, Houma Philanthropist, Supports Local Foundation

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.