BY HILLARY BESSINGER
The Fort Worth Metro Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals hosted a panel of local experts Monday, Oct. 9, to discuss When Disaster Strikes: Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts.
The panel, held during a luncheon at Fort Worth Club, included representatives from Goodwill Industries, the city of Fort Worth, Catholic Charities Disaster Response Program, The Salvation Army Mabee Center and the Junior League of Fort Worth.
When asked how prepared their organizations are for a crisis, responses were mixed.
Mattie Parker, chief of staff to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and the city council, said the city and state learned a lot during Hurricane Harvey, especially about how to better coordinate with each other on the front end; and they are already preparing for the next crisis.
“That’s why our nonprofit partners are so important in Tarrant County – to make sure we can hand off appropriately,” Parker said.
Shay Dial Johnson, vice president of community engagement at Goodwill Industries, said there was no plan. While the agency has crisis plans, they don’t include natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey. Agency employees thought efforts to provide relief would be similar to what was required in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but they found needs were greater this time and more immediate.
Without hesitation, the panelists all agreed that the generosity of the citizens of Fort Worth and Tarrant County following Hurricane Harvey’s devastation was heartwarming.
“I am humbled by the number of people that texted and called, at all hours of the day, to ask how could they help,” Parker said.
“It’s good to be in Tarrant County, and it’s good to be in Fort Worth. We have good people,” said Francine Speer, program manager for disaster response at Catholic Charities Fort Worth.
Speer reported that the number of refugee families who had decided to stay in North Texas reached 91 as of Oct. 6.
Beckie Wach, executive director for The Salvation Army Mabee Center, said the recovery for these families is long-term, lasting at least two to three years but sometimes as long as eight to 10 years. While Fort Worth Housing and United Way take care of the housing needs and agencies such as Catholic Charities and Salvation Army provide case management services, panelists suggested those wishing to help get in touch with local agencies and ask about ongoing needs.
Natalie Martin, president-elect of the Junior League, suggested reaching out to local schools, as they need tutors and volunteers to help assess their new students’ needs. She added one of the best things a person can do is to become trained as a volunteer now, such as in a school or disaster response group, so one is ready to help as soon as there is a crisis.