Schools and churches see bulk of Harvey funding

A Rockport home destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. Nov. 19, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
A Rockport home destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. Nov. 19, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

ROCKPORT, Texas (KXAN) — Nearly three months after Hurricane Harvey destroyed thousands of homes and other buildings along Texas’ coastal bend, some of the donation money raised by people everywhere is slowly getting doled out.

Little Lights Learning Center Director LaVeta Rodriguez said the Rockport day care center received money from an organization called Save the Children. She said her center was able to save the building, after buying a new carpet, fixing holes in the ceiling, and replacing some playground equipment.

“We are getting it done, we are getting it done little by little,” Rodriguez said. “We are so thankful for that money that Save the Children has given us. It has helped to start the rebuilding of our buildings. It’s a start.”

The Rebuild Texas fund sits at more than $85 million, though only $2,154,000 was awarded as of Oct. 9. Sixteen organizations were initially selected to receive funding. Each was given a budget of around $150,000 and $200,000. Several schools districts received money, such as Aransas Pass ISD, Ingleside ISD, Port Aransas ISD and Taft ISD. Save the Children was handed $150,000.

“When a disaster of this scope and scale affects such a large area, it’s devastating for families,” Save the Children’s Senior Director of U.S. Emergencies Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais said.

De Marrais said Save the Children is “helping to restore childcare programs, after school programs — get those programs back up and operational.”

“We feel a tremendous commitment to the people who have entrusted us with that money to get that assistance out to children and families as quickly as possible and to ensure that we’ve got accountability in how we are doing that,” De Marrais added.

Rodriguez said she would have had to shut her business down if Save the Children hadn’t stepped it. “Save the Children came in, they saw our need and they gave us [money] for us to fix the repairs,” she explained.

Others are not as lucky. Rockport resident Stephanie Evans works at one of the first restaurants to open back up after the storm hit Fulton. A gulf coast resident for 35 years, she was devastated to return home to find damage.

“I hate to see my house go but at the same time [it] is not livable,” Evans explained. She has not received any funding from the state or federal government, and is currently battling with her insurance company. She does not expect to get any of the Rebuild Texas money, which leaves her wondering who can help.

“I am hoping that it’ll work out and then I can have a somewhat normal life,” Evans said. “I have got other stuff to do then just keep going around in circles.”

Fulton’s Mayor, Jimmy Kendrick, said the process of getting residents the money they need “will be done right,” as leaders work to make those funds available.

“I’m getting vibes that some of it is going to be coming down the pipe,” Kendrick said. “The rebuild is starting to happen, is it going to be fast enough? I don’t know. It’s never going to be fast enough.”

“Harvey is not going to kick our butt. We are going to kick right back at Harvey, we are going to fight and come back out of the ground. Our fingernails may be dirty, we may not be always smiling, but we will have a positive attitude,” Kendrick said.

Another organization to receive funding from Rebuild Texas was Operation Blessing. A spokesperson said the group was tapped after state leaders saw the work being done in Rockport, and wanted to extend that assistance to victims in the Beaumont and Houston areas.

“To date, Operation Blessing has processed over 2,550 work orders, coordinated/managed 8,948 volunteers and served over 16,000 meals in Rockport, Beaumont and Port Arthur,” said Chris Roslan with public relations firm Roslan and Campion.

Operation Blessing received $150,000 allowing the organization to help “more families who are in dire situations without resources to fix their homes.”

Roslan said Operation Blessing planned to extend its response for an additional six months, planning to “be on the ground helping residents through April 15, 2018.”

Kendrick said the residents of Aransas County have made “drastic improvements,” but mentioned the recovery efforts would not be a race, but a marathon.

As Kendrick put it, “We are going to be the charm of the coast again someday.”

A representative for the OneStar Foundation, which manages the Rebuild Texas fund, said the next round of organizations will be identified and distributed in the next three to four weeks.

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