Where Are They Now?

Community Assistance Fund Grant Recipients
Evie Hunnicutt
Grace House/Bridge House Executive Director of Clinical Services|!!| Michelle Gaiennie|!!| and Clinical Program Director|!!| Megan McLean standing in front of the Tree of Life located in the dining hall of Bridge House.

The Community Assistance Fund is a project of JLNO that provides direct funding to other non-profit organizations in the New Orleans community. “Prior to the Community Assistance Fund becoming a JLNO project, The Junior League didn’t have any way to help out organizations, children’s groups or groups who needed emergency funding that did not fit into our year long project development timeline,” said Erin Luetkemeier, 2006-07 CAF Chair and past JLNO President. “The amount given out is not large, compared to those grants given to projects that are paired with volunteer hours. It’s a way for us to help small organizations that need help quickly to continue a project or plan they already have planned to put into action.”

The CAF program awards grants to programs that have a dire need for funding and seek to advance the wellbeing of women. Through the CAF program, JLNO has distributed more than $313,000 in grants since 2007. The grants are funded by a portion of every member’s dues in addition to philanthropic gifts from donors.

The CAF Committee is responsible for vetting applications and choosing grant recipients. “It’s great training for League members to participate in the CAF process. Committee members are tasked with reviewing all applications and learning about the work of each applicant. Each CAF committee member presents their finding to the full committee and the committee votes on the potential grantees. The JLNO Board then reviews the decisions and the monies are given yearly. This whole process gets our members into the community learning about other nonprofits and the current and ever changing needs the city faces,” Erin said.

The stories of CAF grants range from a children’s center that lacked air conditioning to a summer program that could not afford books for kids.

“It’s tangible things that organizations need to function,” Erin said.

We caught up with three previous CAF grant recipients – Savoir Faire at The Wildlife Reserve, the Mother’s Milk Bank at Ochsner Baptist and Grace House – and learned more about how the grants impacted their organizations and the women in our community that they serve.

Savoir Faire was a non-profit fashion incubator with a goal of helping emerging designers start their collections at The Wild Life Reserve, and JLNO supported its mission with a CAF grant in the fall of 2014.

“Your donation lit a fire on our stove and we have been incredibly busy managing all the burners,” said Tabitha Bethune, Creative Director for The Wild Life Reserve.   

The CAF grant helped launch Onyii & Company. Onyii Brown, founder, was a stay at home mother who Savoir Faire helped transform into an award winning designer featured in British Vogue and nominated as one of Martha Stewart’s top designers of 2015. She has presented her collection at New York Fashion Week.

The CAF grant also purchased tools for fashion entrepreneur Adrianna Moore to design and create her clothing and jewelry line. Her resulting collection, titled Batu, showed at New Orleans Fashion Week as well as Jazz Fest 2016. This CAF grant helped develop the potential of these two women and launch them into the realm of success.

In June 2016, Savoir Faire was dissolved as a non-profit organization, but The Wild Life Reserve continues to serve as a fashion incubator in New Orleans.

LEFT: Junior League member Jennifer Macias and baby Mary drop off breast milk for the Mothers’ Milk Bank with Dorothy Sandville at Ochsner. Photo by: Michelle Sens RIGHT: Onyii Brown, founder of Onyii & Co. Photo provided by: The Wildlife Reserve

In the spring of 2016, the Mother’s Milk Bank at Ochsner Baptist received support from a CAF grant. The Milk Bank has formed a partnership with the Diaper Bank in an effort to provide even greater support to under resourced women raising children. The Milk Bank is the first of its kind in Louisiana and provides irreplaceable nourishment to babies that need it the most.

“Mother’s milk…is as life-saving as blood,” said Dr. Harley Ginsberg, NICU Medical Director at Ochsner Baptist Medical Center.

It’s especially important that premature and vulnerable babies receive nourishment from mother’s milk instead of formula.  

“Right now, we’re functioning as a depot,” Dr. Ginsberg said.

This means that after an extensive screening process, certified donors can drop off their extra milk at Baptist where it is frozen and shipped to Austin, Texas, for processing. The CAF grant helped pay for the freezer and helps with ongoing shipping costs.

“The grant from the Junior League was huge,” Dr. Ginsberg said. “The check stayed up in our unit literally for three months!”

Once the Milk Bank is fully functional and can pasteurize milk, they can begin shipping it to other hospitals while providing the service to women in this area. The CAF grant for the Milk Bank provides essential family support to women and provides support to help Ochsner Baptist be a women’s health leader in the area.

Grace House is another CAF grant recipient which serves women in the Metropolitan New Orleans area. Grace House is a long term residential treatment center for women with substance abuse issues.

“Taking care of physical health problems early in sobriety can be incredibly triggering and stressful,” said Megan McLean, Clinical Director at Grace House. “The CAF grant allowed our women to receive wellness exams in a safe and comfortable environment where they were treated for very difficult health concerns in a respectful way. Through generous donations and grants such as the CAF, we have been able to help women receive these much needed services as a stepping stone to getting their lives back on track.”  

Since receiving a CAF grant in spring of 2015, the Tulane Grace House Clinic was able to provide approximately 70 pap smears, 80 tests for sexually transmitted infections and numerous referrals for positive results. For roughly 70 percent of the women, this was their first Women’s Wellness exam in more than years. Two women were identified and began treatment for invasive cervical cancer and countless others were referred out for treatment of pre-cancerous cells. All the women who entered the program were also able to receive general histories and physicals through the clinic.

Megan shared stories about individuals directly impacted by the funding provided by the CAF grant. One day she stopped to ask a woman how she was.

“She said, ‘No one has ever asked me what was wrong. No one has ever asked me what I wanted or how I felt’,” Megan said. Women treated at Grace House go through a rigorous treatment program designed to empower women. The CAF grant is helping support 70 women in two locations currently being treated with therapy and programming.

“These are powerful stories. I’m lucky enough to get to see it every day,” Megan said. “But you all get to fund it.”

Applications are due on January 20 for the 2017 grant cycle. If you’re interested in supporting the CAF at JLNO, please contact CAF@jlno.org or 504-891-5845. For more information about the CAF program and to see a list of all the recipients, visit JLNO.org/Community/Community-Assistance-Fund-Grants.