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Fact Sheet - Go Fund Me Account

The Chamber Story

ROCKPORT-FULTON CHAMBER FOUNDATION

Hurricane Harvey hit August 25, 2017

August 23, 2017 - Emergency Operations Center (EOC) meetings begin at 10 a.m. Department heads, representatives, etc. receive their "roles" from the Emergency Operations Director. No one at the time was assigned to donation management.

August 23, 2017 - The Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce (RFCC) took on a leading role in communications by sending more than 1,000 pre-Harvey emails and informative Social Media posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram after each EOC meeting (every 4-hours).

August 24, 2017 - EOC Director Rick McLester asks Diane Probst, President/CEO of the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce to post to Social Media messages the EOC needed to get to the community. He then asked all others to follow and post from there with one voice.

August 25, 2017 - Hurricane Harvey eye wall hits Aransas County and batters our community for more than 13-hours.

August 26, 2017 – GoFundMe Account was established by the Rockport-Fulton Chamber Foundation (RFCF), a 501 c 3 charitable organization, with the first donation of $500.00 coming in within minutes from a New York donor. No other organization at the time was set-up to handle the influx of a major outpouring of donation support from across the nation. RFCF quickly learned of the extensive fees associated with the GoFundMe account and immediately let donors know to send checks and wires directly to the Chamber office in an attempt to alleviate those fees.

August 28, 2017 - RFCF began processing a whirlwind of other checks, cash, gift cards and wire transfers and later drove to Ingleside frequently to receive the mail until mail delivery was restored in Rockport-Fulton.

August 29, 2017 - EOC Director Rick McLester phones Diane Probst requesting the GoFundMe Account be the official humanitarian effort account and the Chamber handle the depositing of those donations for the EOC. He assigned volunteer John Jackson as chairman and the Aransas County Ministerial Alliance to work on a process for the distribution of funds.

September 1, 2017 - As the funds reached the FDIC insured amount of $250,000 new accounts had to be opened at other banks. From September 1 through December 5 five accounts were opened in five different banks. All accounts were setup requiring two signatures, transparent reporting process and monthly reviews by a CPA. 

September 5, 2017 - RFCF received a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) from the Aransas County Judge as a directive that 100 percent of the funds be disbursed to those in need in Aransas County. The MOU also stated the Rockport-Futon Chamber of Commerce (RFCC) is to provide free staff for this process. RFCC staff were required to promote, advertise, complete paperwork, if receiving or requesting grant funds, upload tax documents and deposit funds, all the while maintain records (spreadsheet of donations received), and issue tax-deductible receipts to donors.


September 11, 2017 - A joint meeting of the EOC Director, Judge, Mayors, Chamber Chairman, RFCF Board members, founders of the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group (CBDRG) and the Aransas County Ministerial Alliance met. Christine Files, attorney who assisted with the Bastrop fires, along with the United Methodist Committee on Relief Disaster Response UMCOR representatives drove to our community to assist in making important decisions on a fair an equitable way of distribution of funds.

September 11, 2017 – RFCF began searching for and processing grants for assistance with recovery efforts.

September 12, 2017 - After numerous joint meetings and a unanimous request of the joint meeting representatives, the RFCF voted to move the funds to CBDRG for distribution to those in need through a Case Management System and an Unmet Needs Table under the condition all funds raised would be used solely for Aransas County residents only in the humanitarian effort of restoring their homes.

September 14, 2017 - 20 days after the storm the Go Fund Me Account reached $355,562.00 given by 2,314 donors.

September 15, 2017 - Dennis Carnes agreed to represent Aransas County on the Board of Directors of the CBDRG and Lonnie Matthew, both long time volunteers and supporters of Aransas County, agreed to represent Aransas County - Rockport-Fulton at the Unmet Needs Table. They both received extensive training. They were both volunteering their time and support. Since then John Jackson has replaced Dennis Carnes, as he moved to Houston to be closer to his children and Lonnie Matthew still serves at the Unmet Needs Table.

September 21, 2017 – The GoFundMe Account was moved to a PayPal Giving Fund to eliminate extensive GoFundMe fees.


October 19, 2017 - Agreement signed with Coastal Bend Community Foundation (CBCF), the 501 c 3 organization responsible for the management of the CBDRG funds, to keep the funds in a restricted account to be disbursed solely to Aransas County residents who qualify at the Unmet Needs Table.


November 2017 - CBDRG opened an office in Sinton with a phone and one employee. An offer was made to an Executive Director  to run the program. That offer was declined.

December 1, 2017 A letter was received from the Aransas County Judge directing the RFCF to release the funds to the Coastal Bend Community Foundation (CBCF) to hold the funds and release to the CBDRG to Aransas County efforts only. 

December 1 through December 14 – Arrangements made to close the five bank accounts, to hand deliver the $1,218,560.69 at the time to the CBCF, and review the process of distribution in person with the CEO. 


December 14, 2017 - RFCF Chairman and President/CEO hand delivered $1,218,560.69 to the CBCF.


February 13, 2018 - Governor Abbott spoke at the Chamber luncheon announcing hazard mitigation funding coming our way.

February 21, 2018 - Warren Phipps accepts the Executive Director position of the CBDRG. His first day on the job, he attended the RFCF meeting, expressing his desire to meet the needs of all involved.

March 13, 2018 – Restoring Hope in New Orleans RHINO group from New Orleans spoke at the Chamber luncheon explaining how their volunteer program worked for them. It helped our community realize how far we have come and that we were a lot further along in the process than they were at this time after Katrina hit their area.

April 10, 2018 - Warren Phipps was the emcee at the Chamber Luncheon where more than 13 faith-based and other volunteer groups explained what they were working on in the rebuilding and restoring of homes in the Rockport-Fulton area. They received a standing ovation. There were more than 100 people in attendance. He explained the process of leveraging the funds and by working with the volunteer groups he was able to stretch the dollars even further. 

April 24, 2018 - Warren Phipps gave a report to RFCF stating in just eight short weeks the following has advanced: $247,308 obligated out of the $1.2 million allocated specifically for Aransas County residents. $174,016 has already been expended, 8 homes currently in construction with 3 homeowners still needing to sign a memorandum of understanding in the Rockport-Fulton area, Case Management load is 177 cases; 55 of which are active with 25 homes needing construction estimates and local money being spent with local vendors. Greatest obstacle CBDRG faced was having qualified, skilled workers (job foremen, supervisors, site managers, etc.).

Subsequent reports and updates from the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group can be found here