A steady stream of donations from the energy sector and around the world continued to roll in on Friday, as the Gulf Coast bears the brunt of what may be the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history.
As of Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had estimated donations totaling $113 million had been pledged for Harvey relief, but that figure likely will pale before the final tally.
Houston native Michael Dell, who founded Dell Technologies, and his wife Susan, also a Houstonian by birth, on Friday joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in launching the Rebuild Texas Fund, with the goal of raising more than $100 million for longer term recovery and rebuilding communities, in addition to helping with immediate relief efforts.
“This disaster is personal to everyone who has roots in Texas,” the Dells said. “Both of us were born and raised in Texas, and the street Michael grew up on in Houston is under water now.”
The Dells initially have committed $36 million through their foundation, with half to launch the fund and a matching campaign that kicked off Friday and is to continue through Labor Day (Sept. 4). They plan to match $1 for every $2 donation.
“Here in Texas, we have a massive rebuilding effort ahead of us,” the Dells said. “The Rebuild Texas Fund will work with community partners in affected regions with early focus on four areas: health and housing; schools and childcare; workforce and transportation; and capital for rebuilding small businesses.”
Houston-based Vinson & Elkins LLC (V&E), which has deep ties to the energy sector, also has created a relief fund to support the region.
“We are touched by so many of our V&E family and friends across the globe who have offered support and encouragement, and by those who have been able to roll up their sleeves for hands-on relief efforts,” said Chairman Mark Kelly and managing partner Scott Wulfe. “Rebuilding from Harvey will be a long-term project, so we have created the Vinson & Elkins Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund for our lawyers and staff to contribute, with donations matched by the firm…Additionally, we are actively providing pro bono services for those in need of legal help after the disaster.”
It is “bittersweet,” they said, that V&E marked its 100-year anniversary on Friday. “Our founders came together a century ago in Houston with a shared vision of creating an enduring law firm to serve our clients and the community. Today our V&E community extends well beyond our roots, and we remain inspired by a legacy of determination and spirit taking place across the city of Houston.”
ExxonMobil Corp. increased its financial commitment for Harvey for a third time in a week to up to $9.5 million, including an employee and retiree donation match and in-kind donations to the American Red Cross for recovery efforts in South Texas. The increased support builds on $1 million in previous contributions to the American Red Cross and United Way of Greater Houston.
Hess Corp. said it would contribute $1 million to relief efforts in Houston. In addition, Hess is offering a matching gift program for employees donate to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, American Red Cross and United Way of Houston.
Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LLC, headquartered in The Woodlands north of Houston, pledged $1 million to support relief efforts. A $500,000 grant has been directed to the United Way to support Greater Houston, as well as Brazoria, Orange and Jefferson counties, which are home to multiple company facilities and many employees, including the cities of Baytown, Pasadena, Port Arthur, Orange and Sweeny. In addition, the company intends to establish a $250,000 matching gift program with United Way so that individual employee donations may be multiplied by company resources.
“Houston and southeast Texas are where we live and work and we are in this together,” said CEO Mark Lashier. “Our heartfelt concerns and thoughts remain with everyone who has suffered unimaginable loss from this catastrophic event. We plan to work hand in hand with local officials and the community to persevere through this tragic event together and assist with ongoing relief efforts. While Chevron Phillips Chemical is a global company, all our thoughts are with Texas this week.”
Westlake Chemical Corp. also has donated $500,000 to the American Red Cross to assist communities in Texas and Louisiana.
“We are saddened by the thousands of residents in the Gulf Coast region that have been affected by Hurricane Harvey,” said Westlake CEO Albert Chao. “But this tragic event has brought out the admirable qualities of the people of the region — their desire to lend a helping hand where needed…”
In Oklahoma, oil and gas operators on Friday were collecting water bottles and other supplies to help in the recovery effort. The one-day supply drive was organized by the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) and member companies to support the efforts of the American Red Cross.
OOGA President Chad Warmington said there had been “a pretty big outcry” from members that wanted to do something to help.
“Hurricane Harvey has impacted our employees directly,” Tulsa-based Oneok CEO Terry K. Spencer said. “Many have sustained significant damage to their homes or have been displaced during this historic flood. We are grateful that everyone is safe and accounted for, but many employees, their families and the surrounding communities will be facing challenges ahead. Our hearts and thoughts go out to everyone impacted by the devastating effects of these powerful storms.”
RBN Energy Inc., headquartered in Houston, also joined its peers. Rusty Braziel’s company made donations to the American Red Cross and the Houston Flood Relief Fund that was begun by Houston Texan J.J. Watt. Watt’s fund as of midday Friday had raised more than $14.7 million.
Swiss-based Transocean also is donating $200,000 to the relief effort, directing $100,000 to the American Red Cross and $100,000 to the Houston Food Bank, and it plans to match employee donations.
“While Transocean is a Swiss-based company, we have always maintained a significant presence in the Greater Houston area, where we have enjoyed a long-standing and strong relationship with the surrounding community,” CEO Jeremy Thigpen said. “We hope that these donations will help to deliver the support and assistance that is so desperately needed by so many of our friends and neighbors as we jointly work to rebuild this great city.”
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