What does it mean to invest in a community? Big economic development projects are usually sold that way. And if you’re cynical, it can sound a bit like hot air. If a big company puts a new factory in your town, it might bring jobs, but the investment is for the company and its shareholders.
Okay, but that’s not a bad thing. That’s capitalism. But community investment has long been the purview of philanthropy. The dawn of big philanthropy was tied to robber barons. Names like Carnegie and Rockefeller are synonymous with both greed and generosity.
Big name donors are still the most visible philanthropists, but more and more communities are investing in themselves, pooling contributions from donors big and small into community foundations.
Today there are more than 900 community foundations operating in the U.S., pumping billions of dollars each year into their communities. The third largest community foundation in Louisiana is housed in Lafayette — the Community Foundation of Acadiana.
In 2022, the foundation made over $16 million in gifts to causes in its eight-parish region. The foundation was started in 2000 and Missy Bienvenu Andrade is CFA’s second ever director. She took the helm in 2022.
Missy grew up in Lafayette and spent 10 years as dance choreographer before starting her professional life as a pharmaceutical rep and later moving into community work with a job at One Acadiana, the regional chamber of commerce. She moved into nonprofits with jobs at the Boys and Girls Club, becoming Chief Impact Officer for the Boys and Girls Club of Louisiana in 2021.
The Community of Foundation of Southwest Louisiana, which covers metro Lake Charles, was founded in 2008. Today, it’s helmed by Sara McLeod Judson.
The Foundation has become an important part of recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta, both as a channel for local dollars and for national philanthropy. David Philo, Yahoo’s co-founder, gifted $2.5 million to the foundation to help rebuild Lake Charles. That money is the cornerstone of a 50-year master plan.
Sara is a Lake Charles native and spent time working in public relations before moving into the nonprofit space. She’s been the director of the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana since 2013.