For CMC agencies, flood relief efforts pave paths of giving
With rain pounding on rooftops and water seeping into homes, Houstonians scrambled to save their families from rising floodwaters that quickly overtook low-lying streets, neighborhoods and underpasses.
As the water receded in the days after the devastating April 18 Tax Day floods, many families who lost nearly everything they owned turned to shelters for basic necessities such as food, water, and help with housing.
To provide immediate assistance to storm victims, Mayor Sylvester Turner established the Greater Houston Storm Relief Fund. In a matter of days, Houstonians donated more than $1 million to the fund.
“These dollars are going to stay in our community to help those who are still recovering from the floods,” Turner said.
Now, the Houston Greater Storm Fund is turning to city employees for support through the city’s Combined Municipal Campaign. The storm fund initiative joins more than 700 other CMC agencies directly impacted by the annual employee giving drive.
As Houstonians continue to recover from the flood, this year’s “Compassion in Action” campaign highlights employees’ compassion for those in need and how their donations have both short-term and long-term impacts on CMC agencies.
CMC chair Jennifer Cobb said city employees’ contributions touch more lives and do more good than those involved with ever know.
“Whether it’s helping flood victims or inspiring community actions, employees can express their compassion for others by donating their time or money to the CMC,” Cobb said.
City employees never fail to respond with generosity. In 2015, they donated more than $890,000 to the CMC.
Currently, the Houston Greater Storm Fund helps fill gaps in state and federal funding. Aid is being provided to storm victims and relief organizations including Northwest Assistance Ministries, a local CMC agency since 2007.
Community beacon gives second chance at life
Neighbors helping neighbors: It’s a phrase Meredith Sharp is familiar with, and it’s also the mission of NAM, a nonprofit agency that works to meet the basic needs of surrounding communities.
“Our organization impacts so many different areas of the community,” said Sharp, vice president of fund development for NAM. In 2015, more than 130,000 people benefitted from NAM’s emergency assistance services, housing services, a meals-on-wheels program, a senior program, a learning center, a children’s clinic and a family violence center.
“NAM has been able to assist more than 283 individuals affected by the recent flooding with temporary housing, deposits, furniture, and a variety of basic needs,” Sharp said. Throughout the disaster, NAM continued it’s ongoing services.
“Our volunteers come and they help load up the food truck,” Sharp said of NAM’s Meals on Wheels program, which delivers lunches to homebound and disabled adults and seniors Mondays through Saturdays. “We distribute over 600 meals.”
Along with the Meals on Wheels program, NAM operates the Joanne Watford Nutrition Center, located onsite at NAM just west of I-45 North on Kuykendahl Road.
“When our clients come in, they get a basket and then they have a volunteer that goes around with them,” Sharp said. “Depending on what their need is, we have different menus.”
The nutrition center provides basic food staples, fresh produce, meat and dairy. During the floods, NAM distributed 50,000 pounds of donated food to other relief organizations.
NAM now serves as a community hub helping to manage the long-term flood recovery needs of area residents. A recipient of a $15,000 grant from the Greater Houston Storm Fund, NAM created the Relief to Neighbors flood recovery fund.
“We’re meeting those basic flood needs as well as long-term housing,” Sharp said.
Sharp wants city employees to know their CMC donations are making a difference in people’s lives.
“You’re helping a family in need
. You’re helping a child that might need immunizations. You’re helping seniors get the activity they need in order to feel important,” she said.
“The tiniest donation makes a huge impact,” said Sharp. “You are being a change.”
Healthy Families and Communities
On the heels of the April flood, Houstonians were hit once again with heavy rainfalls in May. Flooded streets and communities again left many Houstonians trapped in their homes. Despite the grim outlook, Luis Zelaya and his co-workers at the Spring Branch Community Health Center took action to create rays of hope in the community.
“We were able to distribute 260 hygiene kits to families that lost everything,” said Zelaya, program coordinator for SBCHC’s. “Some of the items included toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, body wash, first aid kits, sunscreen, lip balm and body lotion.”
SBCHC is a nonprofit community health center formed in 2003 that provides health care to low-income and underinsured patients in Spring Branch. SBCH also operates three other sliding scale clinics in Katy and west Houston that offer family medicine, pediatric services, women’s health services, dental services and prenatal care.
“There was one particular patient that came in,” Zelaya said. “The lady lost everything.”
“We were able to help them apply for SNAP benefits and sent them over to a food pantry to help them with the groceries,” Zelaya said. “And we linked them with assistance ministries to help with every other need.”
Now, SBCHC hopes city employees will join them in their mission to provide comprehensive medical services to communities in need. Although SBCHC is new to the CMC, it is very familiar with the plight of the people they serve.
Zelaya said many of the agency’s clients are at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
“People see us as this hub of assistance” Zelaya said. “We want them to know that quality care and services are available regardless of the amount of money they have in the bank.”
Since 2009, SBCHC has served more than 60,000 patients.
Along with comprehensive visits, SBCHC offers health programs for its patients. “We have our diabetes management program where the medical staff would call the patient and make sure they are keeping up with their diet and appointments,” Zelaya said.
SBCHC also offers a parent nutrition class, a parenting class, and a breast health program.
Parents learn about nutrition, shopping on a budget, and portion control, Zelaya said.
Through a partnership with MD Anderson, SBCHC provides free mammograms to underinsured patients.
“They attend an information session on mammogram and breast health and then they receive their mammogram,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s really about the amount of lives that you touch.” Zelaya said of the impact of SBCHC’s comprehensive medical services.
From creating sustainable futures for those less fortunate to stirring compassion in the hearts of city employees, the CMC fosters good will and ignites action within our communities.
“Our compassion will build a foundation for tomorrow,” Cobb said.