United Way of Southwest Louisiana celebrates ‘Leaders and Legends’

Published 9:51 am Friday, February 23, 2024

This year, with the help of volunteers and local business and industry donors, organizations and leaders, the United Way of Southwest Louisiana raised $4.1 million for its life-changing work. The announcement was made by President and CEO Denise Durel at the 2024 Leaders and Legends Annual Meeting and Victory Celebration held Thursday at the Golden Nugget.

“Every year, our community comes together to celebrate and recognize the unwavering compassion and commitment of its members,” Durel said. We are in awe of the incredible generosity shown by individuals, companies and organizations who share our mission.”

For the past 84 years, the United Way of Southwest Louisiana and its partners have been helping families and individuals who struggle to create long-term changes in their lives.

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Weather events in 2023 and the economy introduced hardship to many, and Durel pointed some of the ways United Way stepped up to the plate. In August, a Wildfire Relief Fund was launched to help families in Beauregard Parish. Over $846,000 in Heat Relief Credits for Entergy were processed, giving 4,230 families a reprieve during record-breaking summer temps. A total of 8,400 ALICE’s (asset limited, income constrained, employed) received a lasagna meal.

Not just the dollars raised in 2023 were celebrated at Leaders and Legends. People were too. United Way Volunteer of the Year Keith Faul was honored for “his outstanding contribution of time, effort and talent resulting in benefits to the United Way as well as the community.”    

The Spirit of Southwest Louisiana Award went to the guys behind the “Smoke and Barrel” event, Adam Fontenot and Nathaniel Allured.

Employee campaign Chair Award went to Kelsey Talbot.   

Firestone Polymers received the Corporate Pride Award for providing leadership to United Way financially and for “working together to make the community and world stronger,” Durel said.

Ten companies were recognized for their average gift per employee, percentage of increase over the previous year and total gift: Calcasieu Refining Company, Calcasieu Parish School System, Grace, Firestone Polymers, Rain Carbon, Louisiana Pigment, Turner Industries, Westlake Corp, Phillips 66 and Citgo Petroleum Corp.

Citgo was the top giver with its total gift of $996,983. The average gift per employee for 2023 was $975. The employee participation rate is 78.2 percent.