Friends of Downtown Lafayette,
What a crazy time we find ourselves in. One minute you’re thrilled to have the entire 2020 mapped out for your non-profit organization—filled with bigger and better events and programming to bring people together Downtown—then BOOM… world wide pandemic. The world, my world, our community came to a soul crushing halt. A major slow down for so many of us, but also a major ramp up for others—the first responders, medical professionals, and grocery store clerks to name a few.
To be completely honest, my knee jerk was to cancel everything, take shelter with my family, “wrap my fear around me like a blanket,” and come out once it was safe again. And I kind of did just that (but for only about a week) before I painfully reached deep inside to find my inner Mr. Rogers. Fortunately Downtown Lafayette’s fearless leader, CEO Anita Begnaud is just that—fearless. Instead of freezing and waiting to see what would come next, she immediately dove into help mode by asking, “What can Downtown Lafayette do to assist businesses and our broader community?”
So began the phone calls, texts, and Zoom calls as we started checking in with our Downtown business owners, stakeholders, sponsors, members, and friends. Our new mission became helping our community to connect socially, while being physically apart.
Our job as the voice of Downtown—especially during these hard times—is to empower and inspire the people of our community. We do this by telling the amazing story of our Downtown stakeholders: people like Gus Rezende, owner of Social Entertainment and Central Pizza, who partnered with organizations such as Acadiana Center for the Arts, United Way of Acadiana, and DLU to raise over $85,000 dollars for local musicians and restaurant industry workers in Acadiana. Our friends at Jones Walker and Rock’n’Bowl joined DLU to help feed more than 200 families in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana network. And Nidal Balbeisi, owner of Agave, partnered with the Youngsville Fire Department to distribute over 1,000 plate lunches to feed individuals and families.
There are so many stories like these, of community members from Downtown Lafayette stepping up, leaning in to help however they can. You can read more in the April edition of our Downtowner newsletter.
Downtown’s pandemic story is one of perseverance and resilience—for Downtown businesses and for DLU as an organization. 2019 was a year of many firsts and so much momentum: the beginning of my journey as the first Director of Downtown Lafayette Unlimited, the arrival of DLU member perks such as monthly Lunch & Learns and quarterly Downtown Meet-Ups, and new events like the Sno-Ball Festival and Downtown Christmas. The role of our organization has always been to bring people together around Downtown, and that has not changed. So it looks like 2020 will be another year of firsts as we pivot to ensure we can still offer our Downtown community programming but with new guidelines, new tools, and new ideas. But first we need your help.
The momentum we helped to fuel in 2019 is as strong as ever, but Downtown Lafayette Unlimited needs community support to keep it going. Like so many other organizations around the country, we have been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic because large events with big crowds are how we raise a large portion of our funding. Without events to bring revenue to our organization we are looking to new ways keep our office running, so we can continue our support of the Downtown district.
On June 5th we will kick off another first: a DLU Giving Campaign which will help our organization pivot from hosting events and gatherings to finding new ways to support local businesses in Downtown. There are many opportunities to participate, including a month-long chicken sandwich competition where $1 from every chicken sandwich sold will go to DLU, a PORCHtrait series showcasing the faces behind the businesses of Downtown, and the resurgence of the hashtag #iamdowntown.
How can you help DLU? There are many ways:
- Make a donation to DLU.
- Become a member of DLU or renew your existing membership.
- Encourage your friends and family to eat chicken sandwiches from Downtown restaurants.
- Help us spread our story. Share our giving campaign social posts and email messages.
- Or simply share your story of why you love and support Downtown Lafayette.
If there’s something you feel would benefit Downtown Lafayette please reach out and let us know your ideas. Thank you for your continued support of Downtown Lafayette.
Maureen Dugas Foster
Director, Downtown Lafayette Unlimited