The Young Hearts of Louisiana

By Scott Brazda, The Stuller Family Foundation

Photo credit: MELISSA LEAKE/US COAST GUARD/HAN/EPA

Photo credit: MELISSA LEAKE/US COAST GUARD/HAN/EPA

In the face of tragedy, there has also been pure, philanthropic magic.

On August 12, the deluge began here in south Louisiana, and during the days that followed, there have been numbers that simply want to make you cry: 40,000 homes damaged. 20,000 people rescued. 6.9 trillion (no typo) gallons of rainfall. 13 deaths. $40 million in damages (and counting). From Lafayette to Baton Rouge, lives have been uprooted, treasured memories lost, and faith shaken to its very core.

Our United Ways, the American Red Cross, and other organizations were quickly mobilized, and immediate aid was sent to many in need. My TV station, KATC, teamed with four United Way chapters for ‘The Spirit of Acadiana Flood Relief Telethon’ and raised nearly $150,000 in only three hours, all because of the generous spirit of wonderful people, many of whom had already seen their ‘pre-flooding’ lives derailed by the downturn in the oil industry. People have given and given and given again, with money, food, shelter, labor, connections, and prayers.

It’s like, you know you love your community and its people, but you never really appreciate it until you see their hearts in action. And the people of south Louisiana have huge, caring hearts.

What has dazzled me even more is the volunteerism being exhibited by our young people.

Area football teams, at a time when they need to start preparing for high school jamborees that take place in only a week, have shown up in droves and ripped out wet sheetrock, removed drenched carpeting, hauled out trash, and rescued total strangers with canoes and boats (many called ‘pirogues’ here in Cajun Country). Volleyball teams, speech & debate teams, and student councils have left their respective gymnasiums and classrooms with nary a dissenting word…. Because it’s the right thing to do. (Humorous aside: My own 16-year-old daughter wielded a crowbar for certainly the very first time and asked me, “Dad, is this manual labor? It’s a bit uplifting!”)

We often worry about the ‘next’ generation, wonder if those teenage boys and girls have any sense of direction, any plan, any feel for what it’s like to truly be part of a community. We often call them, as our parents did toward us, the ‘LOST’ generation.

I am happy to report that all is not lost, that hundreds and thousands of our high school, middle school, and elementary school kids do know that their family members, neighbors, and those who live points beyond do matter. I’ve had teachers, coaches, and principals tell me time and again, “I just sent out an email saying that we were going to help someone clean up his home, and wow, 30 minutes later I had 27 kids on board the bus, some who had no affiliation to a team or organization.”

I’ve seen the generosity of our young people in small pockets during my Junior Philanthropy classes, usually evidenced by one or two students who walk up to my nonprofit guest speaker, ask a question or two, and then maybe volunteer to assist with a class or program. But I’ve never, ever seen it like this.

My point is, and this is one I shared with Exponent Philanthropy’s most wonderful Lauren Kotkin when she checked in on me, true philanthropy isn’t limited by age, sex, skill set, or the size of one’s bank account.

Money matters, most definitely. But so do plans, strategies, and relationships. And it all starts with having wonderful, caring hearts, regardless of the age of the person who owns that heart. The ability to make a difference doesn’t come with an age requirement.

Hope you guys are dry. See you in Chicago at Exponent Philanthropy’s 2016 National Conference.

Scott Brazda is executive director of The Stuller Family Foundation. For 16 years, he served as a news and sports anchor at KATC-TV in Lafayette, LA, during which time he won seven Associated Press awards. Scott is a committee member for the United Way of Acadiana and Community Foundation of Acadiana, board member of the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations, and faculty member of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette communications department.

One thought on “The Young Hearts of Louisiana

  1. That is so wonderful, Scott! I was so saddened for my lovely Louisiana, and I know it is incredibly uplifting for the whole area to experience such and outpouring of help and support. Even from Montana and Pittsburgh, where some of your own family live, we were sending our love and support. Great job! You do good work.

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