With Hurricane Ida coinciding with United Way of St. Charles’ annual fundraising campaign, there was concern that the drive might not meet expectations given the storm’s far-reaching impact.
Instead, the community stepped forward and showed its determination, spirit and togetherness – and a new record was set.
UWSC raised $5,018,064 during the campaign, creating the funds to serve the numerous agencies, services and outreach organizations that partner with UW to serve those in the local community who are in need.
Melissa Perrier, UWSC Campaign Manager and a lifelong resident of St. Charles Parish, said St. Charles Parish proved how tight-knit of a community it truly is.
“We were just so fortunate, and our community so fortunate, that people really stepped up and took care of one another at a time where everyone was suffering and going through so much,” Perrier said. “Our industry partners, businesses and really just the individual people really came through. This was, by far, the largest campaign in our history, and when you have a natural disaster happen right in the middle, it isn’t necessarily going to go that way. We’re so blessed to live in a community where people step up to care for one another.”
Perrier said that a year beyond Ida, the work hasn’t stopped.
“That’s something I’m very proud of,” Perrier said. “United Way is still bringing in volunteers to help rebuilding efforts. Businesses and industry are still giving out funds. We haven’t forgotten about one another. It’s not just a little work here and rush off to the next thing. We’re still here, working until everyone is back in their home.”
The campaign record total raised was announced at United Way of St. Charles’ Top 10 Victory Celebration in March at Destrehan Plantation’s Mule Barn.
The highest honor of the evening was presented to Shell Norco Manufacturing Complex for holding the largest campaign of the year, with an outstanding $3,017,310 in donations. Over $1.8 million of that donation stays directly in St. Charles Parish.
Other companies recognized at the event include Valero St. Charles Refinery, Dow St. Charles Operations, Entergy Waterford 3, Bayer, Zachry Group, St. Charles Parish Public Schools, St. Charles Parish Government, Cornerstone Chemical Company, Access Health, and St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Co-chairs for the 2021-2022 campaign include Duane Foret, St. Charles Parish Parks and Recreation Director, Joe Bob LaFleur, Shell Norco Construction Execution Manager, Sherry Rhodes, Catholic Charities Case Manager, and Taryn Rogers, Valero Community Relations and Governmental Affairs Manager.
As Perrier noted, the momentum hasn’t slowed. Recently, approximately 6,000 were in attendance for the 2022 Battle for the Paddle cookoff, a return to action for the event after the 2020 contest was cancelled because of the pandemic and last year’s event was cancelled because of the destruction brought on by Hurricane Ida. The family-friendly outing invites families, businesses, and industry teams from across the region to compete for the titles of Best Jambalaya, Best Pastalaya and Best Gumbo. Unlimited samples are served up and covered by the $5 gate fee.
United Way of St. Charles is leading a Hurricane Ida long term recovery group in which community members with a vested interest in safety and the community come together to ensure funds are directed to where they are most needed.
“We’ve brought in extra case workers to help meet specific individual needs,” Perrier said. “We have volunteer groups living here – one has lived here since Ida, and United Way helps provide housing for them. Another group just arrived and will be here for several months.”
Perrier said the volunteer skilled laborers make an incredible impact, as their volunteerism allows funds to be directed to other areas of need in the recovery.
“It allows us to make so much more of an impact from our dollars because we’re not paying a carpenter or an electrician, and it really helps our dollar stretch to get people back into their homes,” Perrier said.
Perrier, a fourth-generation St. Charles Parish resident, said even for someone who has lived here all her life, the community’s efforts have been eye-opening.
“I truly can’t imagine living anywhere else,” she said. “Not that I ever would have, but after something like this, seeing people continue to take care of one another and putting others first, it’s just something that makes me really proud to raise our family here.”