Mayor’s Relief Fund Leads San Antonio Push to Aid Harvey Victims

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Mayor Ron Nirenberg announces the Mayor's Hurricane Relief Fund, one of many local initiatives to aid storm victims.

Iris Dimmick / RIvard Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg announces the Mayor's Hurricane Relief Fund, one of many local initiatives to aid storm victims.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Wednesday announced the formation of the Mayor’s Hurricane Relief Fund, an continuing fundraising effort in partnership with the San Antonio Area Foundation, to provide support to individuals and communities impacted by hurricanes. The fund was one of dozens of charitable initiatives started locally since Hurricane Harvey blew across the Texas coast, destroying property and displacing thousands.

Nirenberg told the Rivard Report that he “wanted to make it as easy as possible for someone who has a heart to give.” The relief fund will be accepting donations “for as long as it takes,” said Nirenberg, who explained that the need is great because the breadth of the flooding was so significant.

Nirenberg said the money will be used to supply relief efforts in San Antonio for evacuees in shelters, providing food through the San Antonio Food Bank, and will also go toward deploying collected donations and resources to affected areas.

“That’s where the Area Foundation comes in,” Nirenberg said, emphasizing that the partnership will help the city to utilize donated funds efficiently and effectively.

As the hashtag #compassionateSA continues to trend on Twitter, Nirenberg encouraged its continued use. Local companies, nonprofits, and churches were answering the call.

“You can talk about being a compassionate city, but you can actually be a compassionate city,” said Eric Cooper, CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank. “We have the opportunity to let this hurricane define us. Do we act or do we sit on the sidelines? San Antonio is a city that acts. That’s what compassion is all about.”

USAA on Tuesday announced a $1 million donation toward Harvey relief efforts. The USAA Foundation’s contribution will be distributed to the American Red Cross, the Team Rubicon disaster relief organization, and the San Antonio Food Bank. In addition to the grant from the USAA Foundation, USAA introduced an employee donation matching program for its 32,000 employees worldwide and has committed to matching employee contributions up to a total of $500,000.

H-E-B to date has donated more than $1 million, which includes Food Bank donations, disaster relief units, and monetary commitments. the grocery giant also deployed 15 convoy vehicles, which included two mobile kitchens, water and fuel tankers, portable generators, emergency grocery supplies, and other equipment. One mobile kitchen is in Rockport, where the hurricane came ashore Friday night, with another in Houston to distribute food, water, and supplies, according to an H-E-B spokesman. The mobile kitchens have served more than 20,000 meals so far.

H-E-B customers can donate to Harvey victims in increments of $1, $3, and $5 when they check out at the company’s H-E-B, Central Market, and Joe V’s Smart Shop stores.

Valero Energy has announced a donation of $1 million to the American Red Cross and organized a blood drive at its corporate headquarters on the Northside.

In an effort to provide hurricane disaster relief to nonprofits in affected areas, the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation, a fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation, has announced available grant money for nonprofits working to assist evacuees and affected areas. Nonprofits in Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina, and Wilson counties can apply for these grants as long as they are helping local residents affected by or evacuees fleeing from the devastation. The one-time grants will be given to organizations that are meeting the needs of individuals related to food, clothing and shelter, as well as for the nonprofits themselves who may be experiencing increased service needs, disruption of services, or damage to their facility due to the storm.

Methodist Healthcare Ministries is donating $100,000 to the Rio Texas Conference’s Disaster Response Fund to “reach beyond [their] walls into the lives of people affected by Hurricane Harvey.” They also will work locally with Wesley Nurses and Community Counselors and medical staff to support recovery efforts by providing medical, behavioral health counseling, and spiritual care in the local shelter at Kazan Middle School.

Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio gave $100,000, divided equally between the Texas Baptist Men and the Salvation Army.

The Texas Baptist Men trains volunteers and coordinates efforts to provide emergency support during disasters. The organization has been involved in disaster relief in Texas and globally since 1967, and is part of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, one of the largest responders to disasters in the U.S.

NuStar Energy and the Greehey Family Foundation are each donating $125,000 to the American Red Cross, $75,000 to the Salvation Army, and $50,000 to the San Antonio Food Bank for Harvey relief efforts.

The Harvey E. Najim Family Foundation is working with two local television stations to provide disaster relief funding and food to hurricane-affected areas. Harvey Najim, president of the foundation, matched up to $100,000 of donations to the American Red Cross on Tuesday and will match $100,000 of donations on Wednesday to the San Antonio Food Bank.

A number of local churches are working to provide housing, food, clothing, and necessities to displaced individuals and families. These include Christ Episcopal Church, Travis Park United Methodist Church, and the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

The Brooks Development Authority pledged $10,000 toward relief efforts and is hosting a campus-wide relief drive with a focus on collecting diapers, food, baby formula, hygiene products, unused clothing, and pet supplies for those impacted.

The Texas Diaper Bank has been working to collect diapers to for babies, older adults, and disables persons, distributing them to vulnerable populations through partnerships with local shelters and non-profits providing relief efforts. They also are accepting monetary donations.

AT&T of South Texas donated $350,000, which includes $100,000 to the Greater Houston Community Fund, $100,000 to the American Red Cross, and $50,000 to the Coastal Bend Community Foundation in South Texas.  The AT&T Foundation will also match employee donations up to $100,000. In addition, customers can text “HARVEY” to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross.

On Monday, San Antonio Pets Alive drove their mobile adoption vehicle, the Tail Waggin’, to Houston to pick up stranded pets. They rescued 26 cats and dogs, and Krystal Mathis, the organization’s development director, told the Rivard Report that the Tail Waggin’ will return to Houston on Thursday to rescue an additional 70 animals.

The animals will be examined by a veterinarian and, if healthy, sent to foster homes. Animals with medical issues will be sent home with trained medical fosters or kept at one of two clinics to receive extended care. The group hopes to find permanent homes for the animals.

“While our mission is specifically to help the animals who end up at the city shelter, we cannot turn a blind eye to our neighbors in their time of need,” San Antonio Pets Alive Executive Director Maureen E. O’Nell stated in a press release.

O’Nell said that those who want to help have can make monetary donations, foster animals, volunteer, or bring supplies to the shelter.

Local city government was making contributions as well. San Antonio deployed 37 officers from the San Antonio Police Department and the San Antonio Fire Department sent 50 firefighters and search and rescue specialists to aid Houston and the surrounding areas with rescue efforts. City Council members have set up collection boxes at their district offices to collect nonperishable items, clothing, blankets, and hygiene items to distribute to evacuees.

The Bexar County Department of Behavioral and Mental Health has put out a call to mental health professionals, emphasizing the increased need for crisis counseling and referrals for families, as the Center for Health Care Services (CHCS) continues to receive evacuees. The center, San Antonio’s local mental health authority, has put out a call looking for mental health professionals with experience in crisis counseling to assist at their three shelters, two of which are at capacity.

“They [evacuees] are overwhelmed by being in a strange place [and] by being displaced,” said David Pan, director of acute care services with CHCS. “They may be worried about family members, pets they left behind, their house. They are overwhelmed. They need help to process.”

 

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