History of The Rapides Foundation

The Rapides Foundation is a unique organization that continues its legacy as a healthcare provider through continued ownership in Rapides Healthcare System and involvement in its success, but also as a significant grantmaker in Central Louisiana.

The Rapides Foundation stems from a legacy of healthcare and community service that spans decades, beginning in 1903 when a group of six physicians formed the 20-bed Alexandria Sanitarium at the corner of Second and Lee Street. The Louisiana Baptist Convention acquired the sanitarium in 1917 and operated it as the Baptist Hospital until 1970 when it was turned over to the community as Rapides General Hospital. From that point, the hospital flourished as Rapides Regional Medical Center and developed into one of the leading nonprofit, acute care hospitals in the state.

Changing healthcare environment

By the hospital's 90th anniversary in 1993, challenges to its long term ability to provide quality healthcare and civic involvement were recognized by the RRMC trustees. Trustees and administration were concerned with competitive market and pricing pressures in a managed care environment which had become the focus of the industry. The issues to be addressed were managing operating costs and obtaining access to capital for the technology and facilities necessary to maintain and improve the level of excellence that the medical and patient community had come to expect. Extensive research indicated that a networked alliance could offer operating efficiencies and strengthen market potential as a managed care provider.

A joint venture partnership

In September 1994 the trustees of Rapides Regional Medical Center established Rapides Healthcare System, which is a joint venture with HCA for the operation of the hospital. The $140 million in proceeds resulting from the joint venture were used to create The Rapides Foundation, what was then among the largest endowed charitable foundations in Louisiana.

In developing its grantmaking approach, the Foundation became aware of the impact of behavioral and social determinants on health status, and its Strategic Grantmaking Framework is built around the determinants that the Community Health Needs Assessments tell us are most important in the region.

The Rapides Foundation focuses its work in three strategic areas: Healthy People, to improve access to healthcare and promote healthy behaviors; Education, to increase the level of educational attainment and achievement as the primary path to improved economic, social and health status; and Healthy Communities, to improve economic opportunity and family income, and enhance civic and community opportunities for more effective leaders and organizations. 

The Foundation’s current grantmaking approach allocates spending policy as follows:

  • 39% to Healthy People 
  • 40% to Education
  • 21% to Healthy Communities


The mission of The Rapides Foundation is to improve the health status of Central Louisiana.


Our vision is to positively impact Central Louisiana by deploying resources to improve key factors of health status.

Guiding Organizational Principles

The Foundation seeks to understand the opportunities and barriers to community health. Information obtained through listening, research, consultation, and evaluation will be shared with the community.

The Foundation will pursue its mission through practical yet innovative approaches to issues of community health that hold a reasonable expectation for success. Its efforts will be shaped by our learning about issues and solutions and the practical realities faced by the community. The Foundation will evaluate the effectiveness of single projects, and measure the overall impact of its grantmaking against its philanthropic objectives.

The Foundation will take into account both long term perspective and potential solutions of the community in its deliberation and decision-making.

The Foundation is committed to upholding the highest values and standards that guide philanthropy. It will strive for consistency, fairness, responsibility, and accountability and will expect grantees to be similarly minded.

Decisions of the foundation will be independent of political pressures and vested interests at work in the community.

The Rapides Foundation serves as a catalyst to effect systemic change and to address needs and opportunities as they arise. The Foundation functions by providing financial support, bringing diverse people together, facilitating broad dialogue and disseminating information. Grantmaking activities are primarily initiative-based complemented by responses to community requests.

The Foundation works respectfully with grantees to address issues of community health. The Foundation will promote cooperation, collaboration and the leveraging of resources with and among the nonprofit, public and private sectors.

The Foundation affirms its responsibility and recognizes the capacity and role of those who live and work in the community to participate in resolving issues. The Foundation will engage the community in recognizing and solving matters of concern.

Honoring the first 25 years

To receive a printed copy of the 25th Anniversary Special Edition, please contact The Rapides Foundation at 318-443-3394.