We respond to disasters small and large in every corner of every county in Central Texas. When a major disaster strikes and puts our region in the national spotlight, we continue to provide relief for those affected. And now more than ever, the Red Cross is focused on long range recovery for every major disaster we respond to—staying in close communication with each organization and committee involved to see that the community gets the assistance it needs long after the dust settles.
Labor Day weekend marked the second anniversary of the most destructive wildfire in our state’s history. The Bastrop Complex fire destroyed nearly 1,700 homes and leveled much of the beautiful Pine Forest at the heart of the community. During that same week, fires burned all across Texas, and the devastation continued in areas such as Spicewood Springs and Steiner Ranch.
The Red Cross responded with more than 170 volunteers from Central Texas and across the country. Relief efforts, led by a team headquartered in Austin, drew together a group of volunteers and staff from not only the Central Texas region but from other parts of the country as well. Our desire was to help this community cope with both physical and emotional damage. In the weeks immediately following the fire, Red Cross reached out to approximately 3,800 people. ARC provided 60,000 meals and over 31,000 recovery items such as rakes, gloves and sifters.
To see our community suffer was heart-wrenching. We strived to give not just material support, but also comfort and a sense of hope to this group—many of whom were uninsured or underinsured—who had already lost so much. Now, two years since the disaster, these Texas communities have pulled together and proven their resiliency. But recovering from such a tragedy is a healing process that takes time, and there is still so much work to be done.
The Bastrop Long Term Recovery Team (BCLTRT) has become a means for organizations and individuals to donate their time and money to relief efforts. Since the fire struck in September of 2011, dozens of homes in the area have been rebuilt and repaired with funds from BCLTRT. But as of last month, there were still 30 families on the waiting list to receive help building a home, and the funds were running out.
Luckily, there is still hope and help for those families. On Tuesday, September 3rd, I had the honor of announcing that the Red Cross will award an additional $1.5 million to BCLTRT for the materials to build these homes. Thanks to the generosity of the donors to the American Red Cross, we are able to give each of those families the comfort of a home that they have too long lived without.
This is what I mean when I say the Red Cross never leaves. We persevere in our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors until the community has been restored. We are so thrilled to make this contribution, and will remain involved with recovery efforts until our help is no longer needed.