GoFundMe campaign to aid historically black churches impacted by fires raises over $500K
© Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal

A crowdfunding campaign to help repair a group of historically black churches in Louisiana affected by a string of fires has raised more than $500,000 within a week. 

The campaign, which was launched on GoFundMe by the Seventh District Baptist Association, a nonprofit religious organization, has raised funds from more than 10,000 donors and took off on Tuesday as several prominent figures promoted the cause on social media.

The Seventh District Baptist Association, which includes the churches impacted by the recent fires, said on the campaign's website that it was working with the Louisiana governor, elected officials, the impacted churches and their pastors, other faith organizations and the community "to ensure 100% of all funds raised will be evenly distributed to the three churches affected."


"President [Freddie] Jack requested that a Go Fund Me campaign be initiated to show our support for our church families and the communities affected," a statement reads. "We are unequivocally committed to aiding our Sister Churches."

The campaign has benefited from added exposure thanks to professional athletes and journalists. Former New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson called on people to join him in supporting recovery efforts for the churches. 

Yashar Ali, who has written for HuffPost and New York magazine, wrote in a tweet Tuesday that "the rebuild of Notre Dame will be well funded" after a fire at the cathedral in Paris this week, while adding that the Louisiana churches "need your help."

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said shortly after that he had just donated to the campaign. 

Former secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBen Affleck: Republicans 'want to dodge the consequences for their actions' through gerrymandering Republican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema MORE also promoted the crowdsourcing campaign on Twitter.

The effort comes after a man allegedly set fire to three historically black Baptist churches in the St. Landry Parish near Baton Rouge within 10 days of each other recently. The first fire occurred on March 26. All the churches, which were more than 100 years old, were vacant when the fires were set. 

Holden Matthews, the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy, was arrested last week in connection with the fires. He was charged with hate crimes on Monday, according to The Associated Press. He's also facing two counts of simple arson of a religious building and one count of aggravated arson of a religious building due to the “immediate danger” to residents of a home 15 feet from the Greater Union Baptist Church. 

Matthews, 21, has pleaded not guilty. State District Judge James Doherty set a September trial date and has denied bail for the suspect. Dohery agreed with law enforcement officials that Matthews was likely to flee the area or commit additional arsons.

– Updated: 7:12 p.m.