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Blog: Making a Difference on the Gulf Coast

Jan 31, 2011 | By Casey Schoeneberger

When President Obama said last week that Americans do big things, I imagine he was talking about organizations like The Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Justice. The individuals who operate The Gulf Coast Fund (GCF) and their advisors and grantees, do BIG things. Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, GCF has awarded over four million dollars in grants to 200 organizations throughout Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida in an effort to restore dignity to the residents of the Gulf Coast. According to the organization, from the beginning the fund has been about so much more than disaster response—it has been about the underlying conditions that allowed such devastating long-term consequences to result from these disasters.

Potential grantees submit applications for projects that promote justice and Gulf Coast restoration. A panel of advisors (fishermen, activists and local residents) scrutinizes all applications, for which one of the requirements is that each project is self-determined by local residents. The GCF is not looking to make sure that each application is perfect, but that each project works to heal the devastation and emotional trauma that these disasters have caused. Advisors who review grant applications describe themselves as an “…ear and a pulse in the region following Katrina and Rita and all the disasters that have followed.” Due to obvious funding constraints, only about 1 in 3 grant applications are funded. Here are just a few examples of past projects that have been funded by the GCF (a full list of past projects is available here):

Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center, Biloxi, MS $20,000

To conduct a series of audits to determine if housing discrimination based on race, familial status

or disability have increased in the wake of Katrina; to implem