Donation organizers worry Rockport victims are being forgotten

Volunteers unload donations of bedding for Harvey victims in Rockport, Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Volunteers unload donations of bedding for Harvey victims in Rockport, Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

ROCKPORT, Texas (Nexstar) — Trucks full of emergency supplies stop at donation centers across the Coastal Bend, but despite the support from Texans across the state, relief organizers say they need more donations and more volunteers.

Rockport’s road to recovery will likely take years.

“People have kind of forgotten about Rockport, this was in the eye of the hurricane that hit here,” frequent Rockport visitor Bill Thomas said. After the storm, he posted to Facebook, asking for help for Harvey victims. He made a trip down to the coast to lend a hand and has not left in more than a week.

“There was a need here,” he said. “A crazy need, for someone to step up and luckily I have the time.”

Volunteers unload donations of bedding for Harvey victims in Rockport, Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Volunteers unload donations of bedding for Harvey victims in Rockport, Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

Thomas’ background in distribution made the transition to helping organize donations and getting them to the people in need a breeze. A local business owner gave him the keys to an empty warehouse downtown, and Thomas helped launch a donation center.

“Everybody that wanted to bring donations, instead of storing them out in the weather we were able to put them inside,” he said, citing pallets of baby food and other items that had to be tossed from being left outside.

Thomas said the donations have come from around the country, including Michigan, Arizona, and New Mexico. They all end up at the Aransas County Harvey Donation Center, located at 99 N. Austin St. in Rockport.

“Everything here is free for anybody in the area. We are not turning anybody away,” Thomas said. Those items included 191 mattresses and 180 pillows, donated by community members in Comanche, Texas, and trucked in over the weekend.

“Within four days, everyone in our community, our company, we had people from out of state, had donated close to $10,000,” Krista Munroe with Bayer Motor Company said. Chief Executive Officer Lucy Larose created a donation drive, involving the entire community. “That’s what Texas is about. You just come together and you put aside your differences and you put aside what might be bothering you and you feel in your heart just that need to help out.”

Munroe said Larose asked members of the company to ask themselves what they could do to “be a better person,” and the mattress drive was born.

The Aransas County Harvey Donation Center located at 99 N Austin in Rockport, Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
The Aransas County Harvey Donation Center located at 99 N Austin in Rockport, Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

Aransas Pass resident Candelaria Cantu received bedding donated by Bayer. She said the time since Harvey hit has been “really, really, rough.”

“It makes me want to cry because that’s very very awesome for them to… help so many people, it’s just awesome,” Cantu said.

Thomas said though he has seen tremendous offerings from people statewide, there is a need for more donations and volunteers. Lines of cars stretching around the block outside the donation center prove a demand for help, Thomas said.

“We have to just sort [donations] and fill [the requests] because people here are in need,” he said. The items that are delivered are quickly given away, creating a constant need for resources.

At one point, Thomas said he heard donations were being turned away by city officials and law enforcement.

The Rockport Fulton Chamber of Commerce said it was “not aware of any trucks being turned away,” and that law enforcement “were not aware of any either.”

Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Diane Probst, said it was heartwarming to see Texans support each other.

“It’s just very healing when people give,” Probst said. “We appreciate all the generosity tremendously from the bottom of our hearts.”

Thomas said nearly all of the people who stepped up to help have been total strangers. “I don’t know that I could ever thank them all enough,” he said.

“The Rockport Fulton community is strong, and we will rebuild,” Probst added.

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