By Debbie Bresette, President, United Way for Greater Austin
VP of Strategic Programs, Dr. Leah Meunier, joined me on a couple of trips down to Caldwell and Hays Counties this week.
We met with some of the individuals and families whose lives were flipped upside down over the past week, giving out H-E-B and Visa gift cards (from the funds you donated in the past few days) to help immediately in any way we could.
Many of the victims we spoke to echoed similar sentiments: “We don’t even know where to begin to restart.”
What struck me most was that these families thought they were making the “right” choices by investing in their homes and cars, so they would have something to leave for their children. Many elderly citizens had almost all of their equity in their now destroyed homes. And not only did these residents lose their homes, but many also lost their businesses, such as one family we spoke to that owned a mobile home park in Wimberley.
For the individuals living just outside Martindale city limits, there are no services being provided so they are burning their own trash. One woman pointed to a pile of burning trash and said, “That’s 30 years of my memories.”
Between the smoke of the burning trash and the stench of the wet molding carpet, there was much talk of the latest fear— concerns about the standing water becoming infected and causing community health issues.
Being on the ground and talking with these families not only broke our hearts, but also made them incredibly full. People of all religions, ethnicities, backgrounds and from various nonprofits worked together to clear strangers’ homes before the mold began to grow.
I and my entire staff at United Way have been blown away by the incredible generosity of the Greater Austin community in this tragedy. Hundreds of you have donated supplies and money, or contacted us to volunteer. It is extremely inspiring to see the love and empathy you have for your neighbors.
Visit our website to learn all of the ways you can help, or donate now by clicking here. Whether you can give $5 or $500, you ARE making a difference.
Debbie Bresette is president of United Way for Greater Austin, a local nonprofit providing resources to low-income individuals and families since 1924. As one of the largest and most successful Austin organizations, United Way has access to extensive resources in the community. Our resources, combined with the continuous help of our loyal volunteers and their dedication to the community, are what make United Way for Greater Austin the successful nonprofit organization that it is today.