December 14, 2020

Meraux Foundation Announces Year-End Grant Awards

The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation announced today over a dozen donations, totaling some $2.2 million in value. The Meraux Foundation awarded the round of discrete cash and land grants to a number organizations working to meet St. Bernard Parish’s most pressing needs and promote its most aspirational designs.
 
“This extraordinary year has brought significant challenges, and we have been pleased to help our community confront them while maintaining our sights on long-term goals to ensure a brighter future for St. Bernard Parish,” said Meraux Foundation President Rita Gue
 
The Meraux Foundation supports programs that align with the nonprofit’s mission and advance its strategic vision for St. Bernard Parish. 
 
It made several land donations to St. Bernard Parish Government for signature projects. This included two lots to enhance the Old Arabi Cultural District where the Meraux Foundation has established the two-block arts campus, St. Claude Arts. The Foundation also increased its support of the 40 Arpent Trail with a new donation of land valued at nearly $1 million near the Arlene Meraux Elementary School. It will be used for a bike trail being constructed along the levee that will eventually tie into the larger Mississippi River Trail that stretches to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota. The Foundation also granted $75,000 to the Parish to acquire land in Arabi to expand Carolyn Park as well as $200,000 for vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle safety enhancements along W. Judge Perez Drive.
 
“The Meraux Foundation is always there when we need them, and we are grateful for their contributions, and more than that, their ideas and energy,” said St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis. “The Meraux Foundation’s donations are making possible marquee projects that will have deep and lasting effects on the quality of life in our community, from recreation to education to public safety.” 
 
Nunez Community College is benefitting from a Meraux Foundation land donation valued at nearly $500,000 for a new student center and $10,000 for its annual fundraising gala and lecture series. 

In addition to the annual funding the Meraux Foundation has provided to the Performing Arts Academy over the past decade, it is awarding $10,000 to the St. Bernard Parish School District. This donation will support band and chorus programs at Chalmette High School to cover funding gaps created by the pandemic, according to Cultural Arts Program Coordinator Charles Cassar. 

“We are so grateful to Ms. Rita and the Meraux Foundation for all they do to support our students and nurture our parish’s young artists,” he said.

Some of the parish’s young talent also study at NOCCA, a regional, pre-professional arts training center. To support them, the Meraux Foundation is the presenting sponsor of the school’s annual fundraising event, Home for the Holidays, which had to ‘go virtual’ this year due to the pandemic. The concert will feature performances by Jon Batiste, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irma Thomas, John Boutte, and Kermit Ruffins & the BBQ Swingers, with special appearances by Phillip Youmans and Gralen Banks. Viewers will be able to stream the concert on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at 8 p.m. at GiveNOCCA.com or watch it on WDSU TV channel 6 on Thursday, December 24, 2020 at 10:30 p.m.

As part of its COVID-19 Response Grant Program, the Meraux Foundation provided funds to the ArcGNO Chalmette Community Center, which serves people with intellectual disabilities.

“Our first priority is keeping those who attend our ArcGNO Chalmette Center safe, and with the ongoing pandemic, that has created a multitude of challenges,” notes ArcGNO’s Executive Director, Dr. Stephen Sauer. “Visualization is critical to understanding for many of our participants, so we need to furnish the building with a lot of signage so social distancing and other restrictions can be followed. With the Meraux Foundation’s generosity, we are now able to create and produce customized wall, floor, and other signage, making it easier for everyone to understand and follow directions. This is not only a vital aspect to reopening but remaining open as we continue to battle this pandemic.”

To further support individuals with disabilities in St. Bernard Parish, the Meraux Foundation also provided grants to the St. Bernard Autism Awareness Krewe and to Raphael Village

Floyd Gue, right, presenting a donation check in the amount of $10,000 to Robert Lay of the St. Bernard Autism Awareness Krewe.

Also as part of its COVID-19 Response Grant Program, the Meraux Foundation granted $50,000 to the Family Violence Program of St. Bernard, formerly known as the St Bernard Battered Women’s Program. To date, the Foundation has donated over a quarter million dollars to the local nonprofit, which provides survivors with a safe living space, food, and clothing. 

Left to Right:  Family Violence Program of St. Bernard’s Molly Turner and Gail Gowland accept a donation from Meraux Foundation Board Members Rita and Floyd Gue.

“It was a big surprise, and it came at a critical time because it is hard to fundraise right now because of COVID,” said Gail Gowland, the executive director of the Program. “The support of the Meraux Foundation means a lot. They have a great vision for St. Bernard, and they are fulfilling it.”

The Meraux Foundation donated additional funds the St. Bernard Council on Aging to provide meals to senior citizens this holiday season.

Back on its home base of Docville, the Meraux Foundation is constructing a new citrus research facility. In partnership with the LSU AgCenter, the Foundation has established a $320,000 endowment to create four professorships to support the citrus and commercial horticulture research that will take place there.

LSU AgCenter researcher Jeb Fields, left, and Chris Haines, a Meraux Foundation board member, discuss construction of the new Center for Louisiana Citrus Innovation and Research the foundation is planning at Docville Farm in Violet, Louisiana. Photo by Rick Bogren/LSU AgCenter

This most recent round of donations adds to those the Meraux Foundation has awarded throughout the year and as part of its COVID-19 Response Grant Program. 
 
For more information, visit merauxfoundation.org

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About the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation

The Meraux Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established by Arlene Meraux to benefit the community of St. Bernard Parish by leveraging its landholdings. Today, the Foundation’s board of directors is presided over by Arlene’s niece, Rita Gue, and consists of members Floyd Gue, Bill Haines, Chris Haines, and Sidney Torres, III. Guided by Arlene’s vision, the Board is implementing an innovative strategy to create lasting change and build a better St. Bernard. In response to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Meraux Foundation created the COVID-19 Response Program to provide grants to nonprofits serving St. Bernard Parish.

More at merauxfoundation.org.

June 29, 2021 Meraux Foundation Commissions Murals in Old Arabi Cultural District
April 7, 2021 Meraux Foundation Commits $250K to Community Center of St. Bernard
January 29, 2021 Meraux Foundation Dedicates “Lena Randazzo Torres Farmhouse” on Namesake’s 100th Birthday
December 20, 2020 Meraux Foundation Celebrates Collaboration on Coast, Reggio Marsh Project Approval
December 14, 2020 Meraux Foundation Announces Year-End Grant Awards
November 4, 2020 Meraux Foundation Donates $50K to Family Violence Program of St. Bernard