Business Leadership and Community Engagement Go Hand-in-Hand

Can a business leader succeed in a community without fully participating in it? Philanthropist Hunter Perret argues they cannot.

This Lafayette native leads the family-run Perret Group, an investment fund that focuses on community development through strategic support for local business ventures. In addition to local business investments, the Perret Group focuses on education, community development, and charitable giving to advance the Acadiana region. The Perret Group was a significant financial backer for the 24-Hour Citizen Project, a civic side-hosted event to support and fund citizen-led community initiatives.

But Perret’s commitment to his community goes beyond his business life. For the Perret family, community service has always mattered. Perret’s father, Henry C. Perret Jr., was the 2015 recipient of the Lafayette Civic Cup award, a prestigious honor reflecting significant community contributions. Hunter Perret follows in his father’s footsteps.

His interest in local education is apparent in his board memberships on the Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Church and Student Center Leadership Committee, the Our Lady of Fatima Foundation Board, and the University of Notre Dame Student-Athlete Advisory Council. He’s also on the board of The Horse Farm at Lafayette Central Park (a beloved community green space), the One Acadia Executive Committee, and Miles Perret Cancer Services.

Perret participates in the University of Notre Dame’s Joyce Grants in Aid Program. NFL Colts Safety Matthias Farley has attributed his success in part to his friendship with Perret, who first met and supported the then-student athlete through the Joyce Grants program. A devoted member of the region’s diverse and robust Catholic community, Perret is also a member of the Order of Malta, a group devoted to aiding the poor and sick.

Perret’s interest in community health was apparent in his recent attendance at the FDA’s public meeting of its Opioid Policy Steering Committee. Lafayette, like many communities all over the nation, has been affected by the devastating opioid addiction epidemic, which kills approximately 40 million people each day. Perret’s interest in aiding the sick is even more apparent in his commitment to a group near and dear to the Perret family: Miles Perret Cancer Services.

Change for Miles

Hunter is a board member and active volunteer for Miles Perret Cancer Services (MPCS), a nonprofit founded by the Perret family in honor of Miles Perret. This group is devoted to supporting regional families affected by cancer by providing life-changing support, community, and guidance during one of the most stressful experiences a family can go through.

Miles Perret Cancer Services organizes support groups, exercise and nutrition programs, family days, back-to-school services, family events, and other programs for affected families. Their calendar demonstrates that they host events for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers virtually every day of the month. In addition to creating a supportive community, this group also donates material support such as wigs and styling for patients who experience hair loss, mastectomy support items, medical supplies, nutritional supplements, patient guides, and general treatment care gifts.

Less than halfway through 2018, Miles Perret Cancer Services has already served 3,500 families affected by cancer in the Lafayette region, and they’ve done it free of charge. Like many nonprofits, their success is powered by the enthusiastic support of their community. In addition to online, in-kind, and memorial donations, MPCS has year-round fundraising events featuring marathons, concerts, and even a Break-a-Thon for students of Acadiana Karate, where community members support MPCS by buying boards for young martial arts learners to break. Everyone in Lafayette has heard of the Games of Acadiana, an annual family games event for honoring cancer survivors that’s been a local mainstay since 2001.

As a board member, Hunter shares the general responsibility for steering MPCS and ensuring it helps as many families as it can. But one MPCS program is particularly close to his heart, Miles for Change, a fundraiser event that directly involves and empowers regional schoolchild in the battle against Cancer. Local schools can sign up to join the program and receive MPCS bottles, which any student can take home to fill with change and solicit donations.

At the end of the donation period, MPCS throws each school a celebratory Collection Day where volunteers collect and count the bottles and honor students and teachers who participated. This program’s initial goal was to raise $75,000 for MPCS – but to date, they’ve raised over $100,000!

For Hunter, it’s essential for these students to feel appreciated for their hard work. As a member of a family affected by cancer himself, he knows how much the activism of these young community members do matters. He’s attended several Collection Days, accompanying armored cars sent by MPCS to help collect donations. These theatrical touches not only thrill students but help communicate the importance of their help. During a recent Collection day at the St. Peter School of Gueydan, Hunter helped gather over $4,000 – a stunning amount for such a small school.

Are there business leaders out there who make money off their communities instead of supporting them? Probably, but their lives are poorer for it. Perret shows that community engagement and business leadership are not clashing objectives–they must go hand-in-hand.