HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt is donating $8.5 million of the money he raised for Hurricane Harvey relief to rebuilding homes through the St. Bernard Project, the chief executive officer of that non-profit organization told FOX 26 News on Friday.
“We found out last afternoon that JJ was gonna invest a significant amount of the people’s money into SBP and our commitment to get Houston families back home,” says Zach Rosenburg, co-founder and CEO of SBP. Volunteers for the organization spent Friday mucking and gutting homes in the Greenbrook neighborhood of northeast Houston, removing the mold that grew from the floodwaters following Hurricane Harvey.
Volunteers and SBP employees were excited to hear the funding to continue their work is coming from JJ Watt’s hurricane relief effort.
“Amazing," says Scott Schulze, a site supervisor for SBP. "I’m a big football fan. He’s one of my favorite players and it just shows he’s a great guy.”
One of the flooding victims whose house is being rebuilt is Isela Leyba. She says she is living in a hotel with her sons in the meantime. She got the news today that JJ Watt is helping her move home sooner.
“They tell me this morning," said Leyba. "I’m happy and excited, my kids too.”
Rosenburg says he and his wife created the non-profit in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He adds that his team was already on the ground in Houston helping with the recovery effort within a week after Harvey struck. He has the help of volunteers from throughout the U.S., including groups from Kentucky and Maryland who are working on the northeast Houston homes this week.
“I know there appears to be a lot of polarization in this country, but this is non-polarization," says Father Jim Graf, a priest from Kentucky who made the road trip to Houston to volunteer in the hurricane recovery effort. "I mean this is where everybody works together, and that is profound.”
SBP will rebuild many of the damaged homes from floor to ceiling.
“This JJ Watt funding is going to permit SBP to rebuild at least 100 houses and then we’re gonna invest a significant portion of the money into other nonprofit groups,” says Rosenburg.
SBP is recruiting volunteers to help rebuild homes. Those interested in volunteering can find information here.