Fundraising continues six months after Hays County Memorial Day floods

{Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in the Texas Memorial Day Flood Six Months Later series, which was produced by the Texas State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication senior journalism course led by Associate Professor of Practice, Kym Fox. Interact with the stories in the series by clicking here.} 

SAN MARCOS, TX— Since the Memorial Day floods, United Way of Hays County has raised about $475,000.

United Way of Hays County created a Flood Relief Fund to help raise money for the people affected by the floods that damaged hundreds of homes and took the lives of 13 people.

President and CEO Michelle Harper said the organization’s role is to help coordinate efforts and provide avenues for fund distribution.

The amount raised to date is significant because of the short amount of time in which the funds were raised, Harper said.

Immediately following the floods in May, United Way gave out over $10,000 in H-E-B and Walmart gift cards to help those who were affected by the floods.

An additional $40,000 was distributed to several organizations in the county, including Southside Community Center, the St. Bernard Project, Barnabas Connection, Serve San Marcos, Administrative Alliance of Caldwell County and My Neighbor’s Keeper.

United Way allocated $70,000 to Southside Community Center and $70,000 to St. Bernard Project for rebuilding purposes, which include personal residences and local business establishments, Harper said.

Southside Community Center is a local nonprofit organization that provides shelter and food for the homeless, emergency assistance, housing for low-income families and the elderly and neighborhood housing improvement.

The St. Bernard Project used the funds to send teams to San Marcos to rebuild homes and to help families who were affected by the floods. Their mission is to shorten the time between disaster and full recovery and get displaced families and homeowners back into their residences, according to their website.

The remaining funds raised by United Way of Hays County have not yet been allocated.

“The State of Texas asked for United Way to hold the money for long term recovery,” said Harper, but no spending plan has been put in place at this time.

United Way of Hays County is still accepting monetary donations and supplies and welcomes volunteer support.

United Way Hays County Funds Raised Chart

“Since the Memorial Day floods, donations have tapered off and United Way has seen some donor fatigue,” Harper said.

One NonProfit’s Efforts to Effect a Community

My Neighbor’s Keeper, is a nonprofit organization in Wimberley that provides short-term assistance to residents affected by natural disasters. Prior to the Memorial Day floods, the organization had almost $26,000 in their budget for aid and assistance.

Victims needing assistance could apply on the organization’s website for immediate assistance or long term funding. Applicants were then sent in front of the Wimberley Area Victims Emergency Services Advisory Board for approval.

Eligible applicants must live within Wimberley Independent School District geographical boundaries.

The board consists of seven members, five of which are local prominent Wimberley residents and two are members of My Neighbor’s Keeper’s board of directors.

Tom Keyser, chairman of My Neighbor’s Keeper, said that the nonprofit only provides financial assistance, is run solely by volunteers, and there are no administrative expenses. “The office is literally a brief case that I carry with me,” he said.

“To date, we’ve raised and distributed right at $340,000 since the Memorial Day floods and $11,000 since the Halloween floods,” Keyser said.

Applicants who were approved began receiving funding in late June. “We started distributing funds within eight days of the floods,” Keyser said. “After they get approved we cut ‘em a check.”

My Neighbor’s Keeper does not put any stipulations on the money raised. “Recipients can spend the money as they see fit,” Keyser said.

The organization has handed out several thousands of dollars in gift cards to help victims of the flood. They most recently held an event where they distributed gift cards to eligible children to shop for Christmas gifts.

The nonprofit has a pre-funded format to ensure that funds are always available. “We don’t wait for the disaster to hit,” Keyser said.

My Neighbor’s Keeper is still accepting donations through their website.

Online Donations Sent to Emergency Response Team

KVUE, Austin, Texas’ ABC television news affiliate created a GoFundMe page on Memorial Day to raise money for their “Helps Hays County” effort.

After only one month, KVUE’s fundraising effort raised $40,492.

The money was donated to Hays County emergency officials in an effort to improve their flood warning system and emergency response team rescue gear, according to county officials.

In the last five months, the GoFundMe account has raised an additional $1,314 bringing their total amount raised to $41,806, which is just shy of their $42,000 goal.

As a whole, it is almost impossible to report the exact amount of funds or even an estimate that has been raised because each organization has been raising dollars on their own, said Michelle Harper, president of United Way of Hays County.

To find out how to help the disaster relief efforts, visit any of the organization’s websites and provide monetary or volunteer assistance.


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