Reporting Robbie Owens
WEST (CBS 11 NEWS) - At the Czech Stop Bakery in West, a white bucket on the counter is as hot as the kolaches coming out of the oven. It wears a simple sign hastily scribbled with a black marker: “West Rescue Help Support West Resident and First Responders.” And apparently, that’s enough.
“Saturday, we collected just around $16,000,” says Karen Tamayo, “and that’s just in the morning shift.”
As customers continue to drop pocket change, singles and even $100 dollar bills into the collection bucket— it’s one of the many ways that people from around the state are pitching in to help displaced residents: beyond the donated clothes and truckloads of bottled water. And it is welcome relief. As the scope of the devastation sinks in, many say, what’s needed, now, is cash.
“We have all of the clothing we would need,” says Bill Scott, who lost his home in the fertilizer plant explosion earlier this month. “They’ve given us all of the toiletries, paper towel, bottled water, blankets…”
President Obama issued an ‘Emergency Declaration’ two days after the explosion. That designation frees up federal funds to support police, fire and efforts to protect public health. The next step is the ‘Major Disaster Declaration’, which would help individuals who have no insurance or are underinsured. According to a Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) spokesperson, staffers have been in West for more than a week now evaluating the state’s application. But, there is no timetable for when a decision will be made.
In the meantime, thank goodness for fellow Texans.
“Like you see the randomest people in here every single day and the least person that you would expect just puts $100 in there or something,” marvels Tamayo, “and you’re like, ‘wow, what made them do that’?”
For Steve Hawkins of Dallas, the answer was simple.
“ ‘Cause I’m a Texas,” says Hawkins, as he dropped a donation into the bucket. “That’s it. It just shows what we are in Texas, we help each other.”
West city leaders—wavering between weary and overwhelmed since the explosion—say they don’t know exactly how much cash has been donated; but, are working on formalizing a plan to distribute the donations. Residents would be required to complete an application and the donations would be distributed based on need, most likely through an already established non-profit. More details about the process are expected to be released soon.
Meanwhile residents with a specific need are encouraged to simply ask. An assistance center was opened shortly after the explosion and American Red Cross officials say they are helping to direct residents to various agencies offering assistance.
“We’ve fed nearly 20,000 meals, we’ve distributed more than 20,000 relief items,” says Anita Foster, American Red Cross spokesperson. Foster says every family’s needs are different, so caseworkers are helping residents navigate the process and get the help they need.
“Here in West, a lot of people are renters, so the Red Cross is helping them be able to get moved into a new place, get a security deposit put down on that place, so they can start a new household,” says Foster. “So it really is a case by case basis, but you know with the Red Cross, it will be what the family needs.”
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