There’s no doubt the year 2020 will go down in history for its multitude of challenges. But, it’s also been a year that has inspired action for the greater good. In Louisiana, a state already known for generosity and civic engagement, corporations and businesses stepped up in 2020 to support their communities with innovative projects and strategic philanthropy.
Nationwide, COVID-19 hit the restaurant industry hard, but across a number of Louisiana cities, businesses showed support of local eateries by hiring them to cater meals for front line health care workers. During the spring stay-at-home order, when dining in was shuttered, such efforts made a big difference. Feed the Front Line New Orleans, sponsored by Zatarain’s, IBERIABANK and several other corporate partners, purchased meals from 40 different local restaurants to feed workers at 16 regional health care facilities. And local musicians, themselves out of work, were hired to deliver the meals. With live performances continuing to be shuttered, organizers formed Feed the Second Line to pay out of work musicians to deliver free groceries to low income New Orleanians hard hit by the pandemic. Thanks to corporate partners like Rouses, the project has paid $250,000 in wages to musicians since April who have delivered $113,000 worth of free groceries.
Meanwhile, the Better Together Restaurant Coalition in Baton Rouge organized 70 restaurants that took turns catering meals for hundreds of health care workers in local clinics and hospitals. The win-win project saw corporate sponsors donate funds that kept eateries working by providing meals to nurses, doctors and support staff. Regional utility company Entergy donated $100,000 to the effort through a special fund at Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
Health care workers also received support for gassing up their vehicles. ExxonMobil and its statewide branded wholesalers donated $13,000 in gift cards to health care workers across Louisiana. Additionally, the global company donated more than 60,000 gallons of fuel for emergency response vehicles, as well as additional gas gift cards for hospital workers in Baton Rouge. This was just part of ExxonMobil’s annual philanthropic investment in the Capital Region.
College campuses nationwide endured unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic as leaders aimed for as much continuity as possible while also keeping students and the community safe. Over the summer, one company stepped up to help the LSU community perform free testing after a cluster of COVID-19 cases broke out near a campus bar. Relief Telemed, a Baton Rouge start-up that provides telehealth services and COVID testing and tracking capabilities to employers, donated free drive-thru testing to hundreds of LSU students and bar employees. The project increased public awareness about the importance of testing – and likely slowed community spread – by making COVID tests convenient to a large group of mostly asymptomatic individuals.
Along with COVID, 2020 brought an unusually active U.S. hurricane season. In southwest Louisiana, the corporate community stepped up to support storm-damaged Lake Charles after Hurricane Laura hit the area in late August. In the weeks following the storm, the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana raised more than $6.5 million in funds for community support programs, including $500,000 from Cheniere Energy and $100,000 from Sasol.
It’s always great when a company writes a check to a cause, but it’s also a game-changer when employees are empowered to do the same thing. Global digital consulting firm Perficient, which has 25 offices, including one in Lafayette, La., organized a special campaign called Make a Difference December. The campaign enables each of Perficient’s 4,500 employees to donate $100 to the charity of their choice. The $450,000 campaign allows every team member to consider the causes that move them in their own communities and support them with a cash contribution.
Louisiana employers give back year after year. These are just a few of the ways they showed support to local communities in 2020.