Louisiana has the second highest rate of domestic violence in the nation, which is on the rise amid the pandemic. In response, and to commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation granted an additional $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.
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.“
Gowland says the Program in the parish is one of the largest in the state, yet it has a small staff. They give support to upwards of 600 survivors every year. She says they provide a safe place to stay, away from violent situations, as well as food and clothing. The location of the shelter, which the Meraux Foundation donated $100,000 to purchase, is confidential; and most people are referred to the Program through schools, hospitals, and law enforcement.
The Program is funded through state and federal grants as well as private donations, but Gowland is aiming to diversify revenue streams because those funds are not guaranteed. The Meraux Foundation’s most recent donation is going toward operations and renovations at the Deano Center, an affordable event rental and charitable gaming venue that will generate funds for the Program.
“The economic and social impacts of the pandemic are being felt by many, and as a result, domestic violence survivors need more help than ever,” said Rita Gue, the president of the Meraux Foundation. “Our mission to build a stronger St. Bernard Parish includes, especially, providing support for the most vulnerable among us. We are proud to partner with the Family Violence Program of St. Bernard to help those in need.”
Typically, the Meraux Foundation hosts the Program’s annual fundraiser at Docville Farm, a 130-acre campus the Foundation dedicated for charitable purposes. Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was not able to occur, so the Meraux Foundation stepped up to cover the funding gap and much more.
The additional donation to the Program was part of the Meraux Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Grant Program, which was created in the early days of the pandemic to support established 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations serving St. Bernard Parish.
For support or to learn more about the Family Violence Program of St. Bernard, visit fvpsb.org or call 504-277-3177.