KATHRYN EASTBURN The Daily News
The bills are piling up, children are home from school, the rent is overdue and life is looking bleak for many Galveston County families because of the historic COVID-19 shutdown.
Nonprofit health and human service organizations, meanwhile, continue to provide essential services with limited resources and under modified operating procedures while demand for services is surging, they said.
The Galveston County Recovery Fund, a newly reactivated disaster-response organization that grew out of previous community crises and the largesse of Galveston’s major private foundations, has emerged to provide nonprofits with much-needed financial and professional assistance to keep operating fully and efficiently.
At the helm of the recovery fund are Betty Massey, executive director of the Mary Moody Northen Endowment; Allan Matthews, grants director of the Moody Foundation; and Lee Jurewitz, trustee and chief administrative officer for the Ippolito Charitable Foundation. The effort is coordinated by Lindsey White, executive director of United Way of Galveston.
The recovery fund, which started in response to Hurricane Ike, was idle for a while until Hurricane Harvey, when it was reactivated to assist with housing and mental health needs. In recent weeks, it came out of mothballs to help in the current time of need.
“The idea is bringing philanthropy to bear immediately on whatever disaster your community is facing,” Massey said.
Corporations and individuals can donate to the ongoing fund at the website, www.recoverygalveston.com, White said, adding that all donations go directly to nonprofits that apply. A survey on the website is being used to assess community and agency needs and, so far, 15 area nonprofits have applied for and received grants to keep their operations going, White said.
“That list of agencies is growing every week as more nonprofits apply,” White said. “Despite the foundations providing initial funding, the needs out there right now are great. All the money in the world wouldn’t fix this problem.”
One recovery fund recipient was Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, providing food and rent and utility assistance to people out of offices in Galveston and Texas City.
“We’re seeing a different clientele than usual,” said Elizabeth Kinard, regional director for the southern region.
Elderly people often can be found at Catholic Charities’ Galveston office in the Island Community Center, 4700 Broadway, but they are sheltering at home and not in evidence as much as usual, Kinard said.
“But we’re seeing a lot of men with families, people temporarily laid off, workers in the hospitality industry and single moms,” she said.
At the same time, the Texas City office is operating almost entirely remotely by phone, and the Galveston office is serving some 450 families per week with three full-time and two part-time workers rotating shifts on site.
The Galveston County Recovery Fund grant has helped purchase supplies of refrigerated and frozen foods at Catholic Charities’ food bank and has replenished diminishing funds available for rent and utility assistance, Kinard said.
“I’ve been working here for over 20 years, and I have to say it’s been nice to see the community pull together through the COVID-19 crisis,” Kinard said. “When a hurricane comes in, people from elsewhere flock in to help, but everybody’s hurting at the same time with this and communities have to help themselves.”
And because COVID-19 is a global issue, there are no outside funds coming in to Galveston County nonprofits in the immediate crisis, White said.
“We’re concentrating on two areas: first, basic needs like food, shelter and health care; and second, nonprofit sustainability. We want to make sure these nonprofit partners make it through this, so they’re here on the other side to keep serving the community,” White said.
The recovery fund will continue to make grants until it runs out of money, but the hope is that donations will keep the supply viable for a longer period of time.
“I think this COVID-19 crisis is shining a spotlight on the fragile nature of so many of the lives of our neighbors here in Galveston County,” Massey said.
“People who’ve never had to ask for help before are needing help.”