Long-term recovery group working on website
Jan. 13, 2018 at 2 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2018 at 2:10 p.m.
Volunteers with the Victoria County Long Term Recovery Group have worked tirelessly for the past 20 weeks in an effort to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The group, which at times is composed of nearly 100 people, met Friday to discuss progress on case management, rebuilding projects, crisis counseling, finances and hosting volunteers.
Victoria resident Trevor Ayala, 24, joined the group two weeks ago and is building a website at VictoriaLTRG.org, which should be available to the public soon.
He said the goal of the project is to help provide a place online where Harvey survivors can get the help they need in one place.
Another website will help the group manage all the volunteers coming in from all over the country.
"It can be difficult working with so many agencies because of all the moving parts; my team is here to help in that regard," he said.
Ayala serves in the U.S. Coast Guard, is a student and started a web design company last year.
Chairman Mark Longoria, an outreach pastor at Faith Family Church, said Ayala recently created a website for House of Palms, the church's residential program for expectant teen mothers.
He has been working closely with Volunteer Management Committee Chairman Curtis Hauser.
Ayala also reached out to students at Victoria College and the University of Houston-Victoria to find interns.
The group asked Ayala during the meeting to serve as co-chair of the Communications Committee with Cody Shugart.
"It's an honor to be a part of something like this, and I'm grateful the Lord has led me in this direction," he said.
The group also talked about how about 90 families are living in hotels since Harvey, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Transitional Shelter Assistance program has been extended to March 12 for qualified survivors.
Cathy Garcia, chairwoman of the case management committee, said she was concerned that as they are moving through the long list they will encounter people who did not know to complete the FEMA application process by applying for a Small Business Administration loan.
"There's going to be thousands who didn't finish the process," she said.
Bobby Petty with the Small Business Administration urged survivors to go to the Disaster Recovery Center to make sure they are registered.
Even if an applicant is denied the SBA loan, the case can go back to FEMA to see if the survivor qualifies for additional aid, he said.
Group members also expressed concern about Harvey survivors braving the near freezing weather this weekend.
"We have the capability to do special grants for hotel stays," said Dolly Stokes, secretary/treasurer of the group and executive director of Victoria County United Way.
Lane Johnson, co-chair of the crisis counseling and spiritual care committee, said they are continuing to go down the list and call each person who applied for assistance since Harvey.
They are finding that some are now fine; however others are still in need.
"There's a silent group of people that are suffering and not complaining," he said.