On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. Over the course of the next few days, Harvey pounded the Texas coast with wind speeds up to 150 mph, while dumping trillions of gallons of rain on Houston and Texas Gulf Coast communities.
The storm caused unprecedented devastation: more than $125 billion in damage affecting more than eight million people across the state of Texas. Impacted organizations and communities faced a huge test of strength and resilience.
With rain still falling in Houston, a mere five days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the OneStar Foundation joined forces to set up the Rebuild Texas Fund. Michael and Susan Dell immediately committed $36 million to the effort, and others were encouraged to contribute whatever possible to help families and communities rebuild their lives.
The response was swift and generous. More than 33,000 donors donated directly to the fund, and tens of thousands supported benefit concerts and other major fundraising efforts for hurricane victims. Ultimately and incredibly, donors gave more than $100 million to support organizations involved in rebuilding Texas.
A Collective Effort to Rebuild Texas
$ 100 M
Our approach to recovery began with listening to the communities we served, then prioritizing the most pressing needs to get more people back to normalcy. We assessed where there were gaps in resources and decided upon six focus areas of support: community and economic development; health; housing; education and childcare; transportation and workforce; and funds for rebuilding small businesses.
With continued efforts in 2018, the fund awarded the 100th project to Texas Center for Child and Family Studies. In addition, 30 organizations received hurricane preparedness grants as part of the Disaster Preparedness Grant Program, co-funded by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. By August 2019, all $100 million in donated funds were actively at work, with 290 projects across 41 impacted counties.
Below are a few examples of the work among the six focus areas.
Housing: 59 projects, $30.2M+ awarded
Rebuilding not only homes, but lives
Over the course of 14 days, Eight Days of Hope organized a massive effort to repair over 700 homes in Dickinson, TX. Over 4,500 volunteers from 47 states descended upon the area to provide their time and resources to those in need, helping residents get back into their homes. While laying cement, reconstructing walls, and rebuilding roofs, the organization also brought new hope to this community.
Community and Economic Development: 120 projects, $23.1M+ awarded
Bringing Little League back to home plate
Harvey destroyed Ingleside’s Little League fields, leaving an entire season in question. We worked with the City of Ingleside Parks & Recreation Department to bring back this important community space and kick off the Little League season, returning a sense of normalcy for children and families.
Education and Child Care: 66 projects, $25.6M+ awarded
Helping children process trauma through an uplifting camp
Following Harvey, Rebuild Texas Fund supported 840 children through 20 Camp Noah camps in the affected Texas communities. Camp Noah is a preparedness and resiliency day camp offered to elementary-age children in communities impacted by a disaster or crisis. Through a week-long arts, crafts, and music program, children can process how they feel and learn skills improving resiliency.
Health: 30 projects, $12.2M+ awarded
Taking EMS capabilities to the next level
When Harvey destroyed the local hospital in Aransas Pass, Tri-County EMS had to route all its patients to medical care centers and hospitals in the surrounding areas. This added significant travel time in the event of an emergency. The Rebuild Texas Fund worked with Tri-County EMS to outfit their ambulances with CPR machines to provide needed care to cardiac and trauma patients. We also provided a generator to the EMS building, helping them prepare for future disasters and emergencies.
Small Business: 7 projects, $3.4M+ awarded
Helping small business owners reopen their doors
Life-long Refugio resident Dana Alsop had to shut down her event space and floral shop post-Harvey because of damage to the building. The Rebuild Texas Fund partnered with LiftFund to provide loans for hundreds of small business owners who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. With this support, Dana got the loan she needed, and with plenty of hard work, was able to open her doors again to the community.
Workforce and Transportation: 7 projects, $5.4M+ awarded
Educating and sending out a skilled workforce
After Hurricane Harvey hit, a greater need emerged for expert construction work on the Texas coast — and residents needed new skills to take advantage of it. Digital Workforce Academy’s 10-week course combines classroom learning and hands-on experience, so students can learn what they need to support housing construction and the booming petrochemical industry in Southeast Texas. In turn, they create a brighter future for their families and communities.
The silver lining: solidarity and generosity
Hurricane Harvey had a far-reaching and devastating impact on Texas. And it also brought people together from near and far. Neighbors helped neighbors, strangers lent a hand, and hundreds of thousands of people donated to support the recovery efforts. This was also true in the social sector where funders, nonprofits, and others came together to support the regional recovery.
Throughout the process, partnerships across organizations were crucial to the depth and breadth of recovery. Whether committing resources, sharing information, or disseminating volunteer opportunities, organizations worked together effectively to enhance and accelerate the recovery for families in need.
We have been humbled by the determination and perseverance of the people who have shown up every day to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors. Texans helping Texans has been at the heart of the work since day one. While the work continues, we know that these communities will only come back stronger and better than they were before the hurricane hit because they are simply … Texas strong.
Pictured at top: Victoria County Commissioner Danny Garcia