Building Better Lives

St. John United Way

A few of the St. John Untired Way Board members (from the left) Tricia Rousselle, Greg Maurin, Megan Hudson, Linda Prudhomme, Rhonda Colar-Myles, Deborah Varnam, Angel Thompson, Annette Faircloth, James Wagner and Patrick Morton.

 


 

Since its founding in 1972, St. John United Way has worked to unite people and resources to produce long-lasting positive changes in St. John the Baptist Parish. The nonprofit organization strives to accomplish these changes by focusing on what they believe to be the foundation for a better standard of living: health, education and financial stability. According to Artis Williams, St. John United Way’s Executive Director, “These focus areas are considered the primary building blocks for a good quality of life.”

After the catastrophic damage inflicted on St. John the Baptist Parish by Hurricane Isaac in August 2012, St. John United Way managed the funds that were given to the parish to help with the recovery efforts of over 8,000 homes that were impacted. The organization commissioned new roofs and new walls, as well as provided financial assistance to help the people affected get back on their feet. “This is what they do,” said Linda Prudhomme, who serves as the St. John United Way Campaign Chair for 2019 Fundraising and the Business Development Director for the Port of South Louisiana. “They step up and they support those that do not have [resources].”

One of United Way’s main focuses of support is health care. While a person’s address should never determine the quality and accessibility of the health services they receive, this remains a constant reality and a barrier for many people. St. John United Way is fighting to make it easier for those who need access to substance abuse programs, quality health care and nutritious food to be able to obtain what they need.

They do this by providing funding and support to over 30 agencies and investing in programs, not provided by any other local agency, that target specific needs. Among their partner agencies that aid in health improvement are the Red Cross, St. John Ministry of Care, Second Harvest of GNO and The Right Choice, which provides free health screenings, counseling and contraceptive barriers to the River Parishes.
Williams said that some of his proudest accomplishments in his role at United Way is the organization’s increased focus on ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) in St. John the Baptist Parish.

“Nearly half the households in SJBP are struggling to afford basic necessities,” Williams said. “Some of the ways that SJUW does this is by supporting 2-1-1 Services, rent and utility assistance, transitional housing, financial literacy, local food banks, respite care and wheelchair ramps for the elderly and disabled.”

In addition, a successful life begins with quality education, yet millions of the nation’s youth do not have the support they need to obtain a comprehensive education, graduate high school and embark on a rewarding career. St. John United Way believes that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest, and therefore takes an approach to education that spans from cradle to career. Williams said he is particularly proud of St. John United Way’s strong support of Early Childhood Education and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Education in St. John the Baptist Parish.

The average college graduate earns about $36,000 more per year than someone who drops out of high school and is half as likely to end up in poverty. Through partner agencies like St. John 4-H, Boy Scouts & Girl Scout Programs, New Wine Development Corporation and River Parishes Community College, St. John United Way is working to ensure that every child gets a strong start in life, that teenagers have the tools and support to learn and grow, and that young men and women are better able to thrive in the modern job market.

United Way is also fighting to put all Parish residents on a path toward financial freedom, which starts with access to services, job training, credit counseling and money management programs. By mentoring youth through financial workshops, and securing transitional housing for struggling families through their partner agencies, St. John United Way is putting people on the right track to achieving stability.

As an organization, they are great examples of financial stewardship. A non-profit is considered “healthy” if its administrative costs are under 25 percent. With overhead administrative costs at approximately 7 percent, St. John United Way is committed to keeping their operating costs as low as possible in order to ensure that they can provide maximum impact in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Every penny donated is used in St. John the Baptist Parish unless asked to be sent elsewhere, and less than one percent of SJUW funding goes to United Way Worldwide for membership dues. In 2018, their fundraising goal of $820,000 was met and exceeded by three percent.

With a board made up of local leaders from the Parish community, every decision about the operation of St. John United Way is made by the people who know what St. John the Baptist Parish needs most.

“Without their support, we could not do any of the things we do,” Prudhomme said.

 

Port presents check to United Way. (L-R) Dale Hymel Jr. (Port COO), Linda Prudhomme (Port Business Development Director), Artis Williams (Executive Director of St. John United Way), Roy Quezaire (Port Deputy Director)