Photo: Chester Jordan, executive director for Red Cross of Southeast and Deep East Texas, addresses volunteers and other agency leaders with a report on response to Tropical Storm Harvey. RECORD Photo: Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers

For The Record

“In a disaster, help starts local and it ends local,” Michelle Tubbleville, director of Orange County Disaster Relief, said at a recent pass-the-baton celebration at the Red Cross.

The occasion, Wednesday, Feb. 6, was a day for the Red Cross of Southeast and Deep East Texas, to take stock of its accomplishments and still-to-solve challenges a year and a half after Tropical Storm Harvey.

“We’re here to talk about where we’re at, and where we’re going,” said Chester Jourdan, executive director of the local Red Cross.

“What’s the outlook long term? We could probably be sitting here five or six years from now, having the same conversation, because that is the level of destruction we have here.

“Harvey was one of the worst disasters in our nation’s history.”

Orange County Judge Dean Crooks, Chapter board chairman Sky Thompson, Erica Lowry of Red Cross and Elise Fulton-Smith of Habitat for Humanity joined Tubbleville and Jourdan during the hour-long presentation that Jourdan duplicated last week in Jefferson, Hardin and Jasper Counties.

Lowry was assigned by the national Red Cross to lead the Harvey disaster response in Southeast Texas.

She said she’s ready to go home.

“The Red Cross has made a massive response across the counties,” she said. “We’re in recovery right now, but we are aiming for phase-out. We are transitioning to volunteers

“It’s important not to spend dollars on our staff, but on people’s needs.”

An Orange County fact sheet passed out at the gathering showed 15,317 households had received immediate financial recovery assistance from the Red Cross, 3,320 had received long-term financial recovery assistance and 85 households had received long-term complex financial recovery assistance.

Lowry said nationally Red Cross had spent or committed $234 million to households for immediate financial recovery assistance, $182 million to longer-term needs and $62 million in community grants.

Among the largest Red Cross grants for agencies serving Orange County was $2.8 million to Society of St. Vincent de Paul, $1.6 million to Lott Carey Foundation and $1.2 million for Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.

Orange County Disaster Rebuild received $500,000 for repair and rebuild and another $553,500 for long-term recovery and unmet needs funding.

“Without Red Cross funding, we wouldn’t have been able to put that back into our community,” Tubbleville said.

While Tubbleville thanked Crooks, her boss at Orange County, for naming her Special Projects Coordinator and allowing her to help others on a full-time basis, Crooks thanked Red Cross on behalf of the 15,317 households it had helped.

“On behalf of Orange County, I offer 15,317 thank-yous richly deserved by Red Cross. If not for the help you guys give, there’s no way the government could do this.

“You’re certainly a hero. The Red Cross does it out of the goodness of your hearts, not because you’re getting paid.”