Recently, we warned about the inevitable appearance of scam charities hoping to capitalize on the spike in charitable giving that also inevitably happens after disasters such as Hurricane Ike.
We passed on some advice from authorities on the matter, the most basic being to make donations to local organizations with good track records and a permanent presence in the community.
It became a lot more simple to follow that advice last week when a group of local philanthropic organizations re-formed the Galveston County Recovery Fund to raise and distribute money for Hurricane Harvey relief.
Local organizations include the Moody Foundation, the Mary Moody Northen Endowment, the Permanent Endowment Fund of Moody Methodist Church, the Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund, the Ippolito Family Foundation, the Sealy & Smith Foundation and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
With this one recovery fund, people now have a central organization to donate to with all money going toward recovery in Galveston County, said Erica Adams, executive director of the Galveston Sustainable Communities Alliance.
“I can tell you that all of these dollars are 100 percent going to recovery and 100 percent staying local in Galveston County,” Adams said. “That’s meaningful and it gives a direct input and output.”
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Rockport on Aug. 25 and traveled up the coast. It stalled over the Houston area for four days, dropping torrential rain all over the county, nearly 50 inches in some places.
We all know the rest of the story. Thousands of homes were destroyed or badly damaged; thousands of people are still displaced; people are without vehicles, without jobs and are living in places that are not home.
There is tremendous need — material, physical and spiritual — in the community.
The recovery fund is well positioned to make very effective use of donated money for several reasons — the groups involved are local and are already connected with service providers in the area, for example.
Many of them also have been here before. The recovery fund formed after Hurricane Ike and was active until about 2011.
Its focus after Ike was on long-term recovery and filling the gaps that other programs don’t address. That remains so, officials said last week.
For example, the fund will make grants to faith organizations such as churches that aren’t eligible for government help, recovery fund Chairwoman Betty Massey said.
“One area, for example, that is sort of out on its own are churches and synagogues,” Massey said. “Post-Ike, we did $350,000 worth of grants to churches. We intend to do that same kind of help this go-round.”
Other grants will be given to things such as long-term housing recovery and mental health services, Massey said.
“You have families who have lost everything, so there’s going to be a whole chunk of needs that are as basic as a couch to sit on and a car to drive,” Massey said. “Those are going to diminish. At least, post-Ike, there for the long haul was the physical reconstruction of housing.”
The United Way will be the financial agent in the organization and won’t retain any administrative costs, said Lindsey White, executive director of the group.
The foundations involved in the group all plan to put some of their own money in the effort, Massey said.
Recovery from Harvey will be a long, expensive process and we can say with confidence that this group will be around for the whole thing.
• Michael A. Smith