On Dec. 21, 1992, the Louisiana Secretary of State recognized the incorporation of the Louisiana Child Caring Foundation — the entity that eventually became the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.
In recognition of our 25th anniversary, we’re catching up with grantees, starting with our 23 classes of Angel Award honorees.
After a quarter century of serving families in the Shreveport area through Providence House, Simone Hennessee retired as director of the transitional shelter for homeless families in 2016. When she came on board in 1992, she recalls, “We were just getting off the ground. We had a staff of three serving 25 families with a $100,000 budget.” Today the nonprofit’s budget tops $3 million and it employs 50 people.
“The Angel Award funds enabled us to grow and to be able to continue to offer quality programs that made a significant difference. We were still in our main building and struggling to raise the kind of funds necessary.”
Providence House has the capacity to serve 90 families per day; since 1993, 418 families including 461 adults and 906 children have graduated from the program – a success rate of 92 percent. “On any given day Providence House may be serving 250 people and 64 percent of those are children,” says Hennessee.
In the early days, Providence House operated as an emergency shelter. “Now, using a holistic approach,” she adds, “Providence House changes lives significantly and generationally.” Recent updates from adults who graduated from the program as children years ago confirm that the approach works. “It made a huge difference,” she says.
“Graduation” describes a family’s transition from life in a shelter to “getting on their feet permanently,” Hennessee says. That means a completely furnished apartment and the education that will result in employment that pays enough money to provide food, housing, child care, transportation and healthcare. Hennessee has attended more than 40 Providence House graduations, events that are intended be both celebratory and inspirational. Because they provide an opportunity to see others successfully break the cycle of homelessness, graduation is mandatory for families in the program.
Hennessee applied the business philosophy and acumen she honed in her pre-nonprofit career to the business of providing for others. The list of results that followed is beyond impressive:
- In-kind donations of more than $1 million every year, which enable the furnishing of 50 to 60 two-bedroom apartments.
- An endowment program which raised $14 million in deferred giving that will provide future income.
- The Working to Learn initiative, which treats education like a full-time job for Providence House’s residents.
- Raising $700,000 in advance for the construction of the Education Center, which accommodates adult classes as well as a child development center.
- A $1.9 million renovation of the main Providence House bding.
- Adding 50 more families to the program overnight after Hurricane Katrina struck.
The decades went by quickly at Providence House. “Time just goes; it was a passion, you know. I tend to be pretty driven,” says Hennessee. “My husband was a Presbyterian minister and for me this really was just a sense of call.”
Hennessee’s retirement is not a complete one. “I’m volunteering – I have the availability to do that and it’s part of giving back. You get to a certain level and you really need people to help you get to the next level. A lot of people helped me get where I am and I want to turn around and help them.”