2012-2013 CAF Grant Recipient: Teaching Responsible Earth Education (T.R.E.E.) – $4,000. Photo provided by: T.R.E.E.
While the Junior League of New Orleans directly promotes the advancement and wellbeing of women, it cannot fulfill its mission alone. For over 30 years, JLNO has supported independent organizations with aligned goals through its Community Assistance Fund (CAF).
Though the League engaged in similar initiatives as early as the 1950's, CAF was formally established during Ella Flowers’ presidency in 1984.
Beginning as a three-year pilot program, it was initially meant to provide short-term funding for nonprofits to complete urgent projects. For example, the first grantee used the funds to purchase and install fire alarms to bring its building up to code.
While the average grant amount has remained the same ($2,500 to $5,000), the number of organizations assisted has increased. In 1996, three nonprofits received a combined $10,000; by 2001, CAF’s annual budget was $24,000. This year, seven organizations received a total of $50,000. “It’s wonderful,” Ella says, “because that one-time amount of money sometimes makes a huge difference.”
While proposed projects no longer have to be “of an emergency nature,” many guidelines for selecting grantees remain the same. As has always been the case, all applicants must be nonprofit organizations, and funds cannot be used for religious, political, fundraising or traveling purposes. Most importantly, grantees’ projects must coincide with the mission of the JLNO.
When CAF was created in 1984, the League had just completed the process of reevaluating and clarifying its public project goals. The first CAF recipient — Volunteers of America Maternity and Adoption Services — addressed the needs of children, one of three main areas of interest decided upon at the time (the others being the elderly and substance abuse). A 1996 grant to Catholic Charities’ Foster Grandparent Program and a 2001 grant to the Norman Playground Project reflected a continuing dedication to the elderly and the young, and awards to the Greater New Orleans Therapeutic Riding Center and the Lighthouse for the Blind indicated the JLNO’s increasing attention to people with disabilities.
Current chairs, Nicole Deshotels and Amenah Abdelfattah Falgoust, agree that, “CAF is committed to helping organizations that provide women with familial support, improved economic opportunities, and educational resources for women’s physical and mental wellbeing.” This year’s CAF grantees reflect JLNO’s commitment to the economic empowerment, familial assistance and physical and mental wellbeing of women.
The New Orleans Women & Children's Shelter and the New Orleans Family Justice Center address the needs of women facing homelessness and violence, respectively, and Start the Adventure in Reading promotes literacy among young girls. Spirit of Charity Foundation and Touro Infirmary Foundation strive to increase quality patient care for the most vulnerable populations, including women. UnCommon Construction empowers young women and men by helping them develop viable, real-world skills. SisterHearts, Inc., a prison reentry program, is especially notable because its founder, Maryam Henderson-Uloho, herself represents the population of formerly incarcerated women she serves. Through CAF, JLNO supports organizations that are run by women themselves, not just on their behalf.
Celebrating 95 years of service, the JLNO is also looking to the future, regularly evaluating how it can best address the needs of women in the Greater New Orleans area. The Community Assistance Fund will continue to be part of this process, allowing the Junior League to actively support key allies in its mission.