Houston Strong: J.J. Watt gives update on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts

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When Hurricane Harvey hit last August, Houston Texans' J.J. Watt stepped up to the plate and asked for a plea of $200,000 to help all those in the Houston-area devastated by Hurricane Harvey.  Little did he know that his plea for $200,000 would turn into the world’s largest crowd-sourced fundraiser in 10 days--$41.6 million.

In a statement released on Monday, Watt took a look back at the past year and provided an update on how the outpouring of donations was used to help all the people who lost everything they had in Harvey.

“As I reflect on the events of Hurricane Harvey one year ago, the memories of destruction and devastation remain, but they are accompanied by memories of hope, selflessness and the beauty of the human spirit. The actions of professional first responders and everyday citizens alike were an inspiration to the world and a shining example of the inherent good that lies within us all.

Those actions locally were then supported by the actions of hundreds of thousands from around the world showing their support and donating their money in order to help out in any way they could."

The J.J. Watt Foundation has partnered with several non-profit organizations to help allocate the $41.6 million to families devastated by Hurricane Harvey, including Americares, Save the Children, Boys & Girls Clubs, Feeding America, and SBP.

Watt outlined the distribution of funds in his statement as follows:

  • The cleanup, repair and rebuilding of over 600 homes.
  •  The recovery and rebuilding of over 420 childcare centers and after-school programs, serving over 16,000 children.
  • The distribution of over 26,000,000 meals to those affected.
  • ·Physical and mental health services to over 6,500 individuals.
  • Distribution of medicine to over 10,000 patients.

The Houston Foodbank is one of four food banks in Texas that received a $7.5 million dollar donation through their parent organization, Feeding America. Through the foundation's donation, the Houston Food Bank's President, Brian Greene, said the money has helped further develop their mobile pantry, which brings large amounts of food into neighborhoods, quickly.

"This one of the biggest things J.J. Watt has done for us. We've significantly expanded our mobile pantries, which enables us to get deeper into the different outlying counties much more readily," Greene said.

All Hands and Hearts, BakerRipley, , Habitat for Humanity,

Watt also provided details of his plan for the next 12 months for Houston and surrounding areas, including continued home restoration and repair, assistance with both physical and mental health services and rebuilding youth areas such as Boys & Girls Clubs and more.

Donations will also expand to include additional non-profit organizations like BakerRipley, Habitat for Humanity, All Hands and Hearts and the Boys and Girls Clubs. 

Rene Solis is the Senior Vice President at BakerRipley.  He said the BakerRipley was approached by the J.J. Watt Foundation to become an official partner. Two weeks ago, the organization received a $2-million grant. 

"The J.J. Watt Foundation's $2-million will help us assist another 1,000 individuals and households with financial assistance," Solis said. 

Last year, BakerRipley was asked by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett to open and operate a shelter at NRG for a month following Harvey. BakerRipley has also already distributed more than $5.2 million in financial assistance to eligible, low-income families through their case management program.

"Financial assistance will be provided for furniture and appliance replacement, temporary housing for those individuals who are living outside their homes while its being repaired. Additionally, for those who are having financial difficulty paying their rent, they can receive financial assistance for that as well," Solis said.

“I cannot thank everyone enough for your support and generosity, you have truly provided an unbelievable example of what the human spirit is capable of accomplishing. Every time that I am fortunate enough to witness someone step back into their home for the first time or a child run around on the playground again, I am reminded of the generosity of strangers that helped make it all possible. Thank you and never stop spreading the positivity!

None of this would be possible without your generosity. Thank you for shining a light on the beauty of the human spirit. #HOUSTONSTRONG," Watt wrote.