Victoria County Long Term Recovery Group logo

The Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Group unveiled a redesigned logo at its March 23 group meeting.

World Renew, a faith-based disaster relief nonprofit in Michigan, plans to send teams of 16 to 20 skilled workers every three weeks between January and April to help with recovery efforts in Victoria and Port Lavaca.

The announcement was made Friday at the gathering of the Long-Term Recovery Group.

Phyl and Rich Grevenstuk, a husband-and-wife team who will manage projects in the area for the nonprofit, attended the meeting.

Also at the meeting, members of the group discussed an announcement made earlier this month by the Texas General Land Office. Applications for the Homeowner Assistance Program in 17 counties exceed the program’s available funding. Therefore, future applications in those counties, including Victoria, Aransas, Bee, Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, Gonzales and Refugio, will be placed on a waiting list.

Mark Longoria, president of the Long-Term Recovery Group, announced that Rick Villa was named executive director of the organization after serving as development director.

“The leadership of the organization wants to get more active with national and state partners,” Villa said of the change in his role with the organization.

Villa said St. Joseph High School students and members of the youth group at Trinity Lutheran Church have volunteered to work on projects for the group.

In all, four faith-based organizations will send volunteers the remainder of this year and next year to help families in the Crossroads with construction projects. In addition to World Renew, skilled workers from Mennonite Disaster Services will help with projects in Bloomington, Placedo and Dacosta.

Disaster Aid Ohio volunteers will help build houses in Hope Meadows, a 40-home, 21-acre subdivision in Bloomington. The Long-Term Recovery Group has received 20 applications for Hope Meadows, and 10 applications have been approved, said Ashley Razo, the case manager/supervisor for the group.

And volunteers with Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service, or NOMADS, will work closely with Rio Texas UMCOR to provide assistance in Calhoun County.

Villa said he expects 100 or so skilled volunteers to help in the Crossroads, and some are expected to begin as early as October.

“I’ve never heard of this many organizations coming back two years later,” Villa said. “Typically, volunteer teams will assist the first six to 12 months after a disaster, so that seems to me to be quite a commitment from these organizations to come back and provide this type of assistance because I feel it is very uncommon.”

The average age of World Renew skilled workers is 72, and many of them are married couples, said Phyl Grevenstuk. Most of them, such as the Grevenstuks, started volunteering with the nonprofit after they retired, and they come from throughout the United States and Canada. They will provide interior and exterior repairs, painting and minimal electrical and plumbing services, Villa said.

“We work for elderly, disabled and single parents, for people who have no insurance and for those who fall through the cracks,” she said.

Daryl Ready, construction manager with Lutheran Social Services, reached out to World Renew because he had worked with the organization in the past in other areas, including San Marcos and Galveston.

“We worked with Daryl a number of other times, so we have that history,” Grevenstuk said. “Since we arrived, we have been able to meet the right people. They had all the meetings lined up so it’s been a great week. Someone is planning this more than us. This is not a coincidence.”

Trinity Lutheran Church in Victoria will transform classrooms at the church into bedrooms for the World Renew volunteers, and Missions on Wheels will provide a trailer with several showers for them.

NOMADS, an RV group that travels the country helping with disasters, will be based at First Methodist Church in Port Lavaca. The organization will provide about a dozen skilled workers who will rotate every few weeks from October through December.

“We couldn’t do what we do without so many different volunteer groups coming to help,” said Vicki McCuistion, disaster recovery program director for Rio Texas UMCOR. “With each new disaster that happens, the older ones get less and less attention, and we transition to using contractors to get work finished, which increases the cost exponentially. So the volunteers really make a difference in helping to move people forward faster, and our dollars stretch further so we can help more people.”

The Texas General Land Office allocated $1.334 billion toward recovery efforts in 48 counties after Hurricane Harvey. The land office said the Homeowner Assistance Program applications have exceeded funding.

“We knew we would reach this point because of the level of applications coming in,” said Brittany Eck, director of communications for the General Land Office. “We always knew we would have more applications than funding available.”

The office is now looking at unused and other funding that could potentially be moved into the Homeowner Assistance Program, and the other option is for Congress to appropriate more funding, Eck said. Currently, 402 applications are on the waiting list in Victoria County.

Representatives from the General Land Office, GrantWorks, Inc. and the four disaster case management organizations already are talking about ways to assist those in need. The unmet needs committee of the recovery group will continue providing assistance.

To date, the committee has provided $2.2 million in assistance for 556 cases in Victoria County. Outside Victoria County, the committee has given $1.3 million for 176 cases.

“We’re having very open communication,” Villa said. “Those conversations are happening among partner organizations, and we are looking at the scope of things six months to a year from now.”

Elena Anita Watts covers arts, culture and entertainment for the Victoria Advocate.

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