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The Gulf Coast Fund was founded after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by funders active in the Health and Environmental Funders Network (HEFN) and the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA). The Fund is a collaborative pooled fund where those at the epicenter of the disasters have been effectively organized to inform and direct the use of philanthropic resources.

The Fund is dedicated to empowering historically disenfranchised communities, approaching recovery in a holistic manner and remaining focused on a multiplicity of issues and constituencies across the entire affected region.

The Fund was created during an emergency conference call convened by HEFN to discuss the philanthropic response.  During this call the need for independent sampling and testing for environmental contamination was discussed and funding was raised to hire chemist and MacArther “genius” award recipient Wilma Subra, to conduct testing all along the affected Gulf Coast region .  At the same time, funders understood that while immediate direct relief was necessary, philanthropy’s appropriate response would be to provide long-term, sustainable support for rebuilding.

Funders recognized that one “silver lining” was that this human and environmental disaster presented an opportunity for the Gulf Coast to rebuild and recover in a way that could model greater democracy and justice, improved governance, restored wetlands and coastlines, state-of-the-art urban planning, sustainable green rebuilding, regional energy-efficient transportation, and improved non-profit infrastructures for social services, health and education.

The Fund is a collaborative grantmaking fund supporting community, state and regional efforts that engage, empower and benefit displaced and returning residents, and that promote human rights and the sustainable and just rebuilding of neighborhoods, cities and ecosystems throughout the Gulf Coast.

Since its inception in September 2005, the Fund has disbursed over $5 million to over 245 grassroots and community-based organizations working on a wide range of issues and created a vital network of individuals and communities working for a just and sustainable future for the Gulf Coast.  The Fund supports work in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. As of April 2009, the Advisors decided to expand the Fund to include Florida in order to cover the full region that borders the Gulf of Mexico.

Recognizing that the region suffered philanthropic neglect pre-Katrina and Rita and that reconstruction is a long-term process, the Gulf Coast Fund plans to continue to exist in perpetuity.

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Gustav and Ike exposed the human and ecological costs of racism and development that ignored sustainability. The rebuilding of Gulf Coast communities offers an historic opportunity for donors and philanthropic organizations to participate in the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health (the “Fund”). The Fund has been supported by a number of foundations and donors. Click here for a list of donors and supporters.