After Notre Dame fire, GoFundMe raised more than $1 million for burned black churches

Ashley White

LAFAYETTE, La. - The world's focus this week on the fire at the famed Notre Dame cathedral in France has prompted greater awareness of the three St. Landry Parish churches lost in recent weeks to fire.

Nearly $1.2 million has been raised for the three St. Landry Parish churches that were destroyed by arson, and the amount continues to grow. 

The GoFundMe page was created on April 10, just six days after the last fire, by the Seventh District Baptist Association. Donations trickled in. As of Tuesday morning, a screenshot showed the account had about $92,000 in donations. 

About four hours after the screenshot was posted, Notre Dame started to burn and media reports swarmed coverage of the fire. Millions of dollars were pledged to help rebuild the 850-year-old structure, and some estimates Wednesday showed as much as $1 billion pledged so far to rebuild the church. 

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But prominent figures — former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, broadcaster Soledad O'Brien, journalist Yashar Ali — tweeted to remind everyone about the devastation of the St. Landry church fires that have impacted three historically black congregations, urging people not to forget the campaign to rebuild St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

"As we hold Paris in our thoughts today, let’s also send some love to our neighbors in Louisiana," Clinton tweeted. 

Ali tweeted, "The rebuild of Notre Dame will be well funded." Then he posted the link to the GoFundMe. It was retweeted more than 27,000 times. He's been updating the progress of donations.

At about 9 a.m. Wednesday, he said about $878,000 had been raised in the less than 24 hours since he first tweeted the link.

Former New Orleans Saints player Ben Watson tweeted the link Saturday asking for others to support the churches. 

More than 22,000 people had donated to the campaign as of Wednesday morning. Most of the contributions have been modest – $5, $15, $20. A few have been large donations of $1,000 or more. The goal for the GoFundMe is $1.8 million.

In addition to the GoFundMe, the Community Foundation of Acadiana Wednesday established the St. Landry Parish Foundation to accept tax-deductible donations that will go toward supporting the churches. The foundation was initially established through donations from the William C. Schumacher Family Foundation, LHC Group and the Myers Family Foundation, a release said.

“I have every belief that our community will rise in support of these churches and their congregations,” Dr. William “Kip” C. Schumacher of the William C. Schumacher Family Foundation said in a release. “The loss of these churches is devastating, but we will come together as a family and help these churches rebuild. Those impacted by these losses deserve our compassion and our support.”

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Donations can be made at www.stlandrychurchfires.org or by check made payable to Community Foundation of Acadiana, memo: St. Landry Church Fires Fund, and mailed to 1035 Camellia Boulevard, Suite 100, Lafayette, LA 70508. 

The three churches were destroyed in a 10-day period. St. Mary, which is in Port Barre, was the first church that burned, in a fire early on March 26. Greater Union in Opelousas burned a week later. On April 4, a fire destroyed Mount Pleasant on Highway 182 south of Opelousas.

Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a St. Landry Parish Sheriff's deputy, was arrested in connection to the fires, which investigators say were intentionally set and are connected. Matthews has been charged with arson and hate crimes. He is being held in jail after he was denied bond Monday. Prosecutors argued that he was a flight risk and offered evidence that he captured video of the burning churches on his phone.. 

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Follow Ashley White on Twitter @AshleyyDi

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: After Notre Dame fire, GoFundMe raised more than $1 million for burned black churches