Two efforts designed to help San Antonians recover from the effects of last week’s devastating winter storms launched Monday, including a nearly $2 million fund for the city’s most vulnerable residents spearheaded by three local philanthropic foundations.
Other San Antonians will soon be able to draw from an emergency fund dedicated to pipe repairs after many residents’ homes suffered plumbing damage.
The Community Pipe Repair (CPR) fund, which Mayor Ron Nirenberg initially discussed at a City Council meeting Thursday, has been started with a $250,000 donation from Spurs Sports & Entertainment and $25,000 from Wells Fargo, the mayor said. The pipe repair funds will comprise entirely private donations; there are no plans to tap into City money, the mayor’s spokesman, Bruce Davidson, said.
“The Community Pipe Repair fund will fund emergency water pipe repair in [San Antonio Water System] residential customers’ homes,” Nirenberg said. “The fund will be hosted by the San Antonio Area Foundation, and the repair program will be administered by SAWS until all funds are exhausted. The program will prioritize emergency pipe repair that risks causing harm to the life, health, or safety of the occupants.”
Nirenberg joined local philanthropist Gordon Hartman at a news conference to announce the fund. Individuals can contribute to San Antonians’ plumbing repair costs by donating directly to the fund through the San Antonio Area Foundation. SAWS will screen applicants based on their needs and household income, the Area Foundation said.
Hartman also announced a significantly larger, emergency fund called “Let’s Help SA” that will benefit three nonprofits providing direct relief: the San Antonio Food Bank, SAMMinistries, and Haven for Hope. SAMMinistries and Haven for Hope work mainly with people experiencing homelessness.
Even before the six days of sub-freezing temperatures and winter storms, San Antonio nonprofits’ resources had been “stretched extremely thin,” Hartman said. Once his Gordon Hartman Family Foundation began fielding numerous calls from people asking for help with things such as power outages, he realized the situation was dire.
“I started to investigate the situation more and found the need out there in the community, it was much deeper than I originally anticipated it,” said Hartman, who is the coordinator of the city and county’s COVID-19 Community Action working groups. “This, to me, was a bigger hit to this community than even COVID because it was like a double hit to a lot of the most vulnerable people in San Antonio. They were just starting to get up on their feet and then this thing comes and they’re back down again.”
The fund had raised nearly $2 million as of Monday afternoon, Hartman said, and it will accept donations through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28. His hope is to at least double the amount raised already.
“Our intention is to maximize the amount of money that is coming in, and to date, we have raised $1.9 million through large contributors,” he said. “Therefore, as people give, they can feel comfortable that every one of their dollars is being doubled as is donated to this cause.”
The Morgan’s Wonderland Inclusion Foundation, which is administering the Let’s Help SA fund, will begin disbursing funds to the food bank, SAMMinistries, and Haven for Hope within the next day or so, Hartman said. All money raised will go to the organizations.
Seven weekend food distributions hosted by the food bank drew thousands after the severe weather prevented many residents from leaving their homes to reach grocery stores, many of which had bare shelves.
“The sun may be out, but there’s a lot of hurt here in San Antonio,” he said. “We’re trying to alleviate as much debt as quickly as we can. We’ve asked each of these organizations to tell us exactly where they need money, how they would spend it, and we’re going to get as much to them as quickly as we can to deal with those issues.”
Beyond philanthropy, local leaders are searching for ways to assist people with unexpected costs after last week’s winter storm. Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores (Pct. 1) said she and other county elected officials would continue to fight for resources for their residents.
“Judge [Nelson] Wolff and I have asked the county manager to find the funds necessary and to present a plan of implementation tomorrow at Commissioner’s Court where we can assist those who live in the unincorporated areas and in the 26 smaller towns of Bexar County, who have experienced broken pipes due to the weather of this past week,” Clay-Flores said.
“In the meantime, we ask that you continue to help your neighbor and the elderly, as we as a community are already doing.”
Hartman said he wanted to stress that time was of the essence in helping people with unexpected costs brought on by the winter storm.
“If there’s anything I want to emphasize, it’s urgency,” he said. “There are people hurting right now. We need to get money to them right now. And that’s what we’re working to try to be as fast as we can.”
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