Normally on Out to Lunch we’re talking about for-profit businesses. But here in Acadiana – maybe more than anywhere else in the country – there are organisations and people dedicated to making a difference rather than a profit. On this edition of Out to Lunch Christiaan Mader is talking with folks who run nonprofit organizations that fill an important gap in community services, saving birds and saving schools.
Even if your heart’s in the right place, you still need to be able to find your wallet. Lafayette is not necessarily an easy place to raise money. People are generous here, no doubt about that, southern hospitality is certainly a local specialty. But people around here value independence and self-determination. Plus, they like a business idea to make business sense, which means they ought to make money and survive on their own.
That presents a challenge to nonprofits large and small. How do you make big impact on a lean budget? How do you build for the long term when all the money you get goes to the important and expensive work that you’re doing now.
Abi Falgout is the Executive Director the Lafayette Education Foundation. For close to 30 years, L-E-F has filled funding gaps for Lafayette’s schools and educators. The foundation is primarily a granting organization, with a tiny staff, and is best known for the annual Teacher Awards, a glitzy gala that celebrates the best teachers in Lafayette Parish. Abi took over as Executive Director in 2019. She’s also an entrepreneur who’s worked in marketing, real estate and hospitality.
Letitia Labbie runs a wildlife rehabilitation center out of her house in Youngsville. Letitia founded her tiny but effective nonprofit, Acadiana Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation, in 1998. AWER has taken in more than 6,000 birds and small animals over the years, which she treats at often enormous cost, and often entirely on her own. Letitia is currently raising money to establish a permanent treatment center that’s not her house.
For more conversation over lunch about Acadiana education, check this out.