The Wharton County Recovery Team issued a news release on Wednesday, Sept. 23 regarding what it has done for the community, most of it pertaining to flooding.
Wharton and other areas around Wharton County have been affected by various weather events, which included Hurricane Harvey, and other flooding events thereafter.
The Journal-Spectator this month sent questions to WCRT Executive Director Faye Watson. The questions were directed around a recent Wharton City Council meeting this month and the concerns and questions posed by councilmembers.
Some of the council’s inquiries precede Faye Watson’s time as executive director, and date back to when Patti Odom was heading the WCRT for several years.
“I appreciate the opportunity to share the great things Wharton County Recovery Team has accomplished for the residents of Wharton County in response to Hurricane Harvey. In response to your inquiry, please refer to the press release posted on the Wharton County Recovery Team webpage,” Watson said in an e-mail to the WJ-S. “You can follow this link to read the release: www.whartoncountyrecoveryteam.org/press-release.”
Watson was hired this year after Odom announced her resignation in December. This story will not reflect on what the council and city staff spoke about as it affects the WCRT during the September meeting.
The following is a press release that Watson responded to when the WJ-S asked follow-up questions about the meeting.
The following now appears on the WCRT website. It is unedited:
Wharton County Recovery Team (WCRT), a 501(c)3, is happy to share good news of our contributions in assisting Wharton County citizens in their recovery from Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact. Two distinct areas of support have been provided by WCRT: the construction of new homes in Wharton’s West End community, and the renovation and repair of flooded homes across Wharton County. Three years after unprecedented flooding, many families recognize the support received from WCRT as being instrumental in their return to normalcy.
To date, Wharton County Recovery Team has completed 18 homes for very deserving residents on Wharton’s West End and are currently in the process of building another six homes. Funding was provided through grants and private donations. WCRT has a goal of completing all new construction projects by the end of 2020.
We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of the organization as Wharton County Recovery Team’s West End Initiative has built more homes for the vulnerable community on the west end of the city than any other entity, public or private, since Hurricane Harvey.
These new homes provide safe, sanitary, and secure housing for the recipients; additionally, the neighborhood’s overall landscape has been enhanced by the new construction, and taxing entities will enjoy the additional annual receipts. Above all, the new homes are built above flood levels and will be able to withstand future flooding.
Additionally, the organization received applications for support from 348 residents of Wharton County. WCRT Disaster Case Managers worked with qualified clients to ensure they received services including transitional housing, temporary hotel stays, as well as referrals to Samaritan’s Purse and the General Land Office for new home builds.
Through our partnership with major funders including Rebuild Texas, Samaritan’s Purse, Mennonite Disaster Service, American Red Cross, Team Rubicon, The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Good 360, El Campo Rotary Club, Share, Habitat for Humanity, Episcopal Diocese of Texas, Catholic Diocese of Victoria, several local churches, and countless others, more than 225 clients received assistance including new homes, major and minor home repairs, furniture, appliances and other household goods, repair or replacement of water wells and septic systems, as well as other forms of support to assist in their recovery.
Major home repairs include elevating homes above flood level, strengthening foundations so the home is more apt to withstand future disasters, and replacing roofs and siding. Minor home repairs include repair or replacement of flooring, cabinets, windows, etc.
The Wharton County Recovery Team Board has evolved over time and currently includes Stephanie Konvicka, President, and members: Chris Barbee, Melissa Burnham, Ben Evans, and Carol Wootton. These board members serve on a volunteer basis and are unpaid for their time and leadership to the organization.
At the height of Wharton’s recovery the staff included: an Administrator who reported to the board and handled day-to-day operations; four Disaster Case Managers who conducted intake on applications and presented clients’ needs to funders; two Construction Managers; an Administrative Assistant; and a Volunteer Coordinator. As activity decreases and funding is expended, the staff has been reduced accordingly.
WCRT’s contributions to the community have reached beyond Hurricane Harvey recovery. At the onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Wharton County Recovery Team assisted the City of Wharton by providing 5 RVs to be used by first responders needing to quarantine away from their families.
Again, we are happy to share our progress and WCRT is pleased to have partnered with such fine organizations as The City of Wharton, Hesed House, Just Do It Now, MEHOP (Matagorda Episcopal Health Outreach Program), and Mid-Coast Title in the rebuilding phase following Hurricane Harvey.
Watson also responded the following to the WJ-S: “Again, I appreciate the opportunity and welcome any additional questions or concerns from Wharton’s city councilmembers. As I’ve shared with councilwoman (Alice) Heard-Roberts, I am more than happy to attend a council meeting to provide updates or host a tour of WCRT home construction on Wharton’s West End for any interested councilmember.”