Notre Dame fundraising efforts inspire people to donate to rebuild Louisiana churches

Firefighters respond to a fire at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church on April 4, 2019, in Opelousas, Louisiana.

As millions of dollars roll in to help rebuild the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, people have been inspired to donate to rebuild three churches in Louisiana that were intentionally burned down.

The intentionally set fires burned three historically black churches in rural St. Landry Parish -- about 30 miles north of Lafayette -- St. Mary Baptist Church on March 26, Greater Union Baptist Church on April 2 and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church on April 4.

Fundraising efforts for the churches that started last week had reached more than $150,000 of the $1.8 million needed when on Tuesday the GoFundMe campaign skyrocketed to nearly $620,000 and counting. The push for the donations was inspired by social media users spreading awareness of the campaign.

"It's a blessing," the Rev. Gerald Toussaint, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, said of the money raised. "It's going to help our community. What the devil meant for bad, God's going to turn it into something good."

The donations came on the heels of an announcement Tuesday that Notre Dame has three of France's wealthiest families spearheading fundraising for the historic site, the total has already topped $700 million, millions more than the Louisiana churches need.

The GoFundMe started by the Seventh District Baptist Association is working with government officials and local leaders to make sure all money raised is given to the three churches, according to the event page.

The man accused in the Louisiana church fires, Holden Matthews, 21, pleaded not guilty to three hate crime counts, two counts of simple arson of a religious building and one count of aggravated arson of a religious building.

CNN's Darran Simon contributed to this report.

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