Carlee Alm-LaBar, President and CEO of United Way of Acadiana (“UWA”), is our guest. As a young woman who first moved to South Louisiana for Teach for America teaching High School Math in Churchpoint in 1998, Carlee has proven that her heart is dedicated to public service and in leaving things better than she found them.
Many knew Carlee as a candidate in the 2019 Lafayette Parish President’s race. Prior to that she worked with Southern Lifestyle Development and served as Head of Development and Planning for Lafayette Consolidated Government. She also served as assistant to City-Parish President Joey Durel, overseeing communications and community relations for LCG, and spent eight years working in the nonprofit sector at the Community Foundation of Acadiana and Acadiana Youth.
On the volunteer front, Carlee served as chair of the Leadership Institute of Acadiana, the parent organization of Leadership Lafayette; in Junior League of Lafayette, she served as chief financial officer and communications vice president; she was a long-time board member of Lafayette Youth Soccer Association and was honored as a Woman Who Means Business and a “Top 20 Under 40” young professional. She organized and led the Fix the Charter group, a citizen-driven effort that supported the reorganization of our Lafayette Consolidated Government into two separate city and parish councils.
In late February 2020, she started her new post at the helm of UWA, which was two weeks before the COVID shutdown turned our world upside down. Carlee has been focused on disaster relief ever since. The economic devastation wreaked by the COVID disaster has shone the light on the importance of UWA’s work in giving people the “building blocks for a better life.”
Carlee had to quickly learn how to manage staff who were working from home while also navigating fundraising responsibilities in an environment that precludes in-person events. UWA has focused on using resources wisely in its outreach to the community; they have recently partnered with Court Appointed Special Advocates of South Louisiana (“CASA of SoLA”) which is now located on UWA’s campus. Carlee explains that “this is a great opportunity for cross-collaboration in helping our most vulnerable…..foster children who are in need of advocates.”
With its focus on “Education, Earnings and Essentials,” UWA partners with other community non-profits in coordinating volunteer resources and ensuring that basic needs are met. The organization not only funds other deserving non-profit “partners” which have been vetted for effectiveness, but it also provides direct services in areas of need that are not being met by other non-profits. Carlee explained that our region has approximately 100 to 150 active and viable non-profits; some have employees and are run as a business, while others thrive on volunteer efforts to get the job done.
In October 2020 as this interview was recorded, many people were still underemployed or unemployed while also having been hit by the myriad of hurricanes that battered South Louisiana. UWA is a local leader in the Acadiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (“VOAD”) and works diligently alongside 232-HELP and Second Harvest to ensure that people are fed, housed, and have their basic needs met during periods of disaster. COVID’s impact on economic security has presented a new type of “disaster” to deal with, the likes of which this generation has not experienced.
The annual Women Who Mean Business award ceremony will take place on December 9, 2020 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm as a virtual event on United Way of Acadiana’s Facebook page. UWA is looking forward to 2021 but is still in a holding pattern insofar as planning live events.
UWA proudly supports the Healthy Acadiana Coalition and serves as its organizer. A food drive to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank is being coordinated through November 30, 2020, and interested persons may find out more here.
United Way of Acadiana is located at 215 E. Pinhook Road, Lafayette, LA 70501. You can reach them by phone at 337-233-8302 or visit their website at https://www.unitedwayofacadiana.org. Volunteers are always welcome and of course, financial contributions can make all the difference in enhancing the quality of life of your neighbors in our community.
Discover Lafayette thanks Carlee Alm-LaBar for her service to our community and for shining the light on the many volunteer opportunities available to help our neighbors most in need.