Recovery group irons out process

Members of the Victoria County Long Term Recovery Group discuss programs to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Some conversations grew tense Friday during a meeting of the Victoria County Long Term Recovery Group.

"We're going to have to have some hard discussions to get where we need to be," said chairman Mark Longoria, who is also outreach pastor at Faith Family Church.

Longoria said while they may be uncomfortable, these conversations are crucial as they work together to meet the needs of those struggling because of Hurricane Harvey.

A room at the Victoria College Emerging Technology Complex was filled with people representing their agencies and churches who have volunteered to be in the recovery group since early September.

One debate centered on the financial committee's need for information from the group's other committees.

Helen Walker, former county judge and co-chair of the financial committee, said they need to know some needs before soliciting donations on behalf of the group.

But at the same time, case management committee members said they need time to go through a long list of survivors who have applied for assistance.

The committee presents cases to the unmet needs committee, often after a family has gone through their insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency process.

Dolly Stokes, secretary/treasurer of the group, said they determined from various FEMA figures that about 2,300 residences have been impacted in the county, with 144 of those homes or apartments sustaining more than $17,000 in damages.

However, she said they still don't have a clear picture. Some families may have already repaired minor damage and not be in need, while others may not have even applied with FEMA and are not on those lists.

The committee is vetting hundreds of cases and removing any duplicates as well as checking requests with proof of residence and other documentation.

Organizations have hired case managers to handle the work, and additional funding has come in to hire more workers soon.

St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services plans to hire case managers through a grant provided by Texas Workforce Solutions.

Construction manager positions are also available through Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, which has been serving the region. Local homeless advocate Kim Pickens was hired as the organization's disaster case manager supervisor.

Victoria County Judge Ben Zeller, who attended the meeting, presented a $1,000 check to the long-term recovery group from a recent barbecue plate sale. The fundraiser was to benefit his re-election campaign, and a portion was donated to hurricane recovery.

Later in the meeting, the group's vice-chairman, Glen Dry, said he would like for more of Victoria's public officials to help raise money for recovery efforts.

Dry, founder and pastor at Sportsman's Church, said he learned at a meeting this week that Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb is still fundraising for relief efforts.

McComb has raised almost $900,000 for recovery efforts since he established the Mayor's Hurricane Harvey Fund in September, his office confirmed Friday.

Through the Coastal Bend Community Foundation, the mayor has distributed funds to nonprofit organizations in Corpus Christi and the surrounding communities.

Dry said members should continue to encourage public officials to help because a lot more money will be needed.

"I think there are people that need to be reminded of that," Dry said.

"I want our community to look better than it ever has," he added. "We don't want to see anybody left behind."

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Features Editor

Laura has covered health and nonprofits in the Crossroads since 2014. She's also mom to a toddler, loves journalism conferences and is a big fan of sci-fi and crime TV.

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