Houma Transplant Finds Home in Community Service

By Julia Arenstam


The Bayou Community Foundation’s coordinator may not be a native of the Houma-Thibodaux area, but her passion for the bayou region has helped raised over $1 million for local organizations.

Jennifer Armand began working for the foundation shortly after it was founded in 2012. Armand and her husband Matthew moved to the Houma area in 1997, shortly after the birth of her daughter.

“I started getting involved at the Chamber of Commerce. That helped me fall in love and get connected to this community,” Armand said.

She later served as chairwoman of the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce board in 2013 and also works as the executive director of the Bayou Industrial Group.

“I was fortunate to get involved in many different ways,” Armand said.

Since moving to south Louisiana, Armand said she has gotten to know the loyal people of the area.

“It’s the love of life and love for our region. We’re very loyal people. We love where we live and want to make this community the best it can be for our children,” she said.

Even as natural disasters and other man-made events have devastated the community, each time “our bayou region picks itself up by the bootstraps,” Armand said.

The tenacity of the people in this area is also what fuels the efforts of the Bayou Community Foundation.

With a mission to strengthen the Terrebonne, Lafourche and Grand Isle communities, Armand works with private donors looking to make a local impact.

“It’s been eye opening and tremendously beneficial,” Armand said. “I never imagined, even with limited amount of work I had in the community … not until I started at the Bayou Community Foundation did it really open our eyes to the tremendous work that so many different nonprofits are doing in our community.”

Armand works to coordinate the annual grants ceremony, where the foundation most recently distributed $230,000 in grants to local nonprofits.

“It brings tears to my eyes and chills to my skin to hear the stories and hear the passion in all of these voices,” she said.

When the organization first started, it was supported with large support from the Gheens Foundation. With its $500,000 donation, the Gheens Foundation challenged the founding members to raise $1 million in five years.

“We met that match in May 2015 … two years early,” Armand said.

Since then, the Gheens Foundation has continued to be a substantial donor, she said.

“I don’t think any of us imagined what kind of impacts we would be seeing with those grants,” Armand said.

Despite the successes of local government and private industries, they can’t fill every need in the community. That’s were these organizations come in, Armand said.

“We want to grow our capacity, so we can do even more and make an even greater impact,” she said. “We want to give people, all people, an opportunity to invest in our region with gifts of any size.”

In the last six years, support and recognition of the foundation’s efforts have grown, reaching out to the Greater New Orleans Foundation and launching the annual Give Bayou Day each May.

“That really shows that we’re getting there,” Armand said.

As the organization continues to grow, Armand said she’d like to see its work help fill some needs.

If the foundation’s work can be so successful that some of those nonprofits’ needs are no longer needs, then they’ll be even more successful, she said.

Working with the Bayou Community Foundation has allowed Armand to “feel even more connected to this wonderful community.”

“We’re doing something really important by connecting donors to issues that they care about,” she said.

Bayou Region Conference for Nonprofits is Huge Success

The Bayou Community Foundation, in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation and Fletcher Technical Community College hosted the inaugural Bayou Region Conference for Nonprofits on Thursday, July 26, 2018 at Fletcher’s campus in Schriever. More than 100 representatives from area nonprofits learned how to strengthen their fund development efforts at the “Focus on Funding” learning event that featured renowned speakers and trainers on topics such as Building a Culture of Philanthropy, Marketing on a Shoe String Budget, and Using Social Media to Fundraise.

“The Bayou Community Foundation is happy to have partnered with the Greater New Orleans Foundation and Fletcher Community College to offer this exciting new conference for Bayou Region nonprofits, and we are grateful to our sponsors for their help. To have so many local nonprofits come together for one day to learn, to share and to grow was truly incredible,” said Bayou Community Foundation Coordinator Jennifer Armand.

“Each attendee represented an organization that is doing something really amazing to help our neighbors in need or advocate for a critical issue, and doing that work well depends on donor support. By investing in our local nonprofits, we are making our precious coastal community stronger, and that’s what the Bayou Community Foundation is all about,” she said.

The nonprofit conference also included booths with nonprofit service vendors and culminated with a panel discussion by representatives of local grant funders including Chevron, Danos Foundation, Entergy Louisiana, the Louisiana Bar Foundation and the Bayou Community Foundation. This panel was moderated by Greater New Orleans Foundation CEO Andy Kopplin. The panelists discussed their institutions’ grant programs, how nonprofits can apply for grants, and tips for strengthening grant requests.

“As the community foundation serving the 13-parish region of Southeast Louisiana, the Greater New Orleans Foundation is proud to support Bayou region nonprofits and help strengthen their fundraising skills,” said Greater New Orleans Foundation CEO Andy Kopplin. “We believe this conference will drive positive impact in the community thanks to the new and improved skills and techniques that Bayou region nonprofits will take home with them.”

“Fletcher Community College was honored to serve as host for the inaugural Bayou Region Conference for Nonprofits,” said Dr. Kristine Strickland, Chancellor of Fletcher Technical Community College. “The educational and training opportunities provided at the conference are directly aligned with Fletcher’s mission and our participation is fundamental to who we are as a community college. The nonprofit organizations in our region work diligently to provide services and opportunities for residents, uplift our community and promote an enhanced quality of life for all,” she said.

“The conference was a wonderful opportunity to network with other nonprofits that have similar challenges and visions for meeting the needs of our communities as we do. Hearing from the panel of local foundation members was especially beneficial, providing insight on their selection process,” said Lafourche ARC Executive Director Wendy Eschete.

Sponsors for the Bayou Region Conference for Nonprofits were Cenac Marine, Digital Insyte LLC, Synergy Bank, Simply Nonprofits and Buquet Distributing. Planning committee members included Kellie Chavez Greene, GNOF; Jennifer Armand, BCF; Chandler LeBoeuf, Fletcher; Wendy Eschete, Lafourche ARC; Julie Pellegrin, The Haven; Rebecca Thibodeaux, Simply Nonprofits; Kevin Champagne, MacDonell Children’s Services; and Paul Labat, The Foundation for TGMC.

Give Bayou on Tuesday

Guest columnist on HoumaToday.com

This Tuesday, all of us throughout Terrebonne and Lafourche have a tremendous opportunity to come together as one to show the world how much our precious bayou region means to us. Simply put, we have a chance to Give Bayou.

May 1 is GiveNOLA Day for the Bayou Region, a 24-hour online giving event designed to support our local nonprofits that go above and beyond to make a difference in our region. Their hard work and dedication is making our community stronger, healthier and a happier place to live. There are 55 nonprofit organizations from Terrebonne and Lafourche participating in the online giving event, all of which provide truly amazing services, from mentoring programs for at-risk youth to medicine for the poor and elderly. In fact, there are so many local nonprofits participating, there is sure to be at least one organization that is near and dear to your heart. You can view a full list of participating nonprofits at GiveBayou.org.

Bayou Community Foundation is one of those 55 organizations participating in GiveNOLA Day for the Bayou Region, and BCF is also excited to coordinate the Give Bayou campaign, which encourages local residents like you and me to give on Tuesday.

BCF was born nearly six years ago as a bucket of philanthropy for our cherished coastal communities and to support the great works of local nonprofits filling the needs in our area. BCF is the only community foundation specifically working to strengthen our entire Terrebonne, Lafourche and Grand Isle communities and create a compassionate, sustainable future for all.

In keeping with this mission and the great support of our donors, BCF has awarded 95 grants since 2013, totaling more than $782,000 to bayou region nonprofits. These grants are life-changing investments that provide food for hungry families at local food banks, books for pre-school children learning to read, a safe haven for abused women and children, plants for rebuilding our wetlands, jobs for disabled residents and so much more.

This summer, BCF expects once again to award more than $200,000 in grants to local nonprofits, and every dollar you give to BCF Tuesday will help to grow our grants fund. Your gift will allow BCF to reach a monumental milestone for our community of $1 million in grants awarded. Your gift will have a tremendous impact on our neighbors in need and our community as a whole.

Time and time again, when faced with adversity, those of us who call Terrebonne and Lafourche home pull up our bootstraps and do what we need to do to get the job done. We are generous, hardworking people who proudly take care of our own. We have seen this in the aftermath of hurricanes and storms that have pummeled our Bayou Region; in our willingness to tax ourselves to build levees and floodgates; and in our push to secure critical highway infrastructure like La. 1. Supporting our local nonprofits that take care of the neediest among us and that are working hard to educate our young people, heal the sick and protect the vulnerable is another important way we demonstrate the great pride we have in our region.

Our local nonprofits have a goal of raising a total of $100,000 in online donations Tuesday, and you can help make this goal a reality. Between now and 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, I invite you to join me in making a quick online gift to one or more of the 55 Terrebonne and Lafourche nonprofits participating in this one day of giving.

Giving is easy. Simply visit GiveBayou.org to view a list of our participating nonprofits, determine which organizations you would like to donate to, then visit GiveNOLA.org to make your online gift with a credit card. Your gift goes directly to the nonprofit and begins working right away here in Terrebonne and Lafourche. With donations starting at only $10, everyone can be a philanthropist on GiveNOLA Day.

Be a champion for our local nonprofits and our entire bayou region Tuesday. Please, Give Bayou!