Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing
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THE HISTORY OF BISCO
Interfaith Sponsoring Committee (BISCO), Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit formed in 1994 after Hurricane Andrew exposed longstanding issues of racial inequity and poverty in southeastern coastal Louisiana. The rationale of the organization is to bring together local residents via access through faith institutions of multiple denominations in order to develop a network of relationships, capacity-building programs and trainings focused on addressing issues of communities from a grassroots level. With organizing representatives from Catholic, Baptist and other denominations gathering as one, BISCO came into existence as a small organization with limited staff and opportunities for action.
Through the intervening years, BISCO has grown in organizational capacity, outreach, networking, and impact. Today, BISCO is known as a trusted and active voice for community residents from Terrebonne, Lafourche, Assumption and Jefferson Parishes, and has also worked in neighboring parishes of St. Mary, St. James and St. John the Baptist.
With current membership including 19 Covenant Congregations, who h
old membership on our Board of Directors, we also recognize non-Board members in categories of Individuals, Collaborative Partners and Affiliated Partners.
One of the major principles of BISCO is to strive for ethnic diversity in each of our activities. We recognize the significant role the various ethnic groups who call the Bayou Region home have played in creating the unique and fascinating culture of the area. It is part of our mission work to seek occasions to bring these various ethnic groups together for building relationships that can create a positive attitude of solidarity and friendship.
Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing recently earned national recognition for its advocacy work in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf Guardian Award is given by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to honor businesses, community groups, individuals and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive.
“It’s been very humbling to receive the national award,” Sharon Gauthe, BISCO’s executive director, said of her organization’s first place award in the Environmental Justice Category. “Even though we’re proud and excited about it, it’s also an honor.”
BISCO formed in 1994 to address issues of racial inequity and poverty in southeastern coastal Louisiana.
After hurricanes Katrina and Rita exposed environmental threats to historically under served and underrepresented groups, BISCO launched an environmental education and advocacy project to have the Gulf Coast acknowledged as a Regional Environmental Justice Community.
Gauthe said she remembers meeting with an EPA official around that time to discuss the environmental threats facing the region and how to recognize them on a national level.
After two years of conference appearances, community meetings and other advocacy work, Gauthe heard the same federal official announce coastal land loss was the country’s top environmental justice concern.
“That was exciting,” she said.
According to the EPA, the idea of labeling an entire region an Environmental Justice Community has now gained general acceptance and plays an important role in planning and paying for rebuilding efforts across the coast.
Since that effort, BISCO has continued to educate local and national audiences about land loss, sea level rise and other environmental hardships, while teaching groups how to advocate for issues facing their communities.
BISCO also started a public comment campaign to increase involvement in the 2012 Louisiana Master Plan, hosted community forums to discuss effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and called for more transparency in flood insurance rates, among other initiatives.
While the group has become associated with its environmental work, it has also pushed for a bus system in Thibodaux and free swimming lessons for children, Gauthe said.
“We don’t just deal with coastal land loss, we help deal with local issues,” she said. “We address whatever the issues in the community are.”
Staff Writer Meredith Burns can be reached at 448-7636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE WORK OF BISCO
The underlying impetus for BISCO’s work is breaking down generational patterns of injustice, racism and poverty.
Our goal is to work for healthy, just and sustainable communities.
Program areas include:
- Building Relationships and Networks
- Leadership Development
- Education and Outreach
- Special Projects
Current priority issue areas as determined by our grassroots membership include:
- Affordable and Safe Housing and Insurance
- Hunger and Homelessness
- Poverty and Racism
- Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery
- Public health and Safety
- Community Outreach and Education
- Resource Education, Referral & Case Management
- Advocacy Campaigns
- Network and Collaboration Building
- Capacity and Development
Many thanks to our wonderful funders