The Jewish Federation of Houston gives to charities annually, but they usually give primarily to organizations that serve the Jewish community. Federation CEO Lee Wunsch says these grants are in addition to what they normally allocate.
"We're part of this community and when you're part of a community you've got to accept responsibility. The fact that so many thousands are being served by the agencies that were here today; we're in the business of community development and it was our responsibility to step forward and do what we could."
The money for the grants came in through donations apart from the Federation's normal fundraising. The nearly $2.2 million will be disbursed to cover costs already incurred as well as current services to hurricane evacuees. Mark Levinson is with Neighborhood Centers, an organization that received $100,000 for their ongoing work.
"What we can provide, we provide. What we can provide through connecting them to other agencies and other service providers, we do. We take a very long-term approach because now that they're in our neighborhoods and out of the shelters, they're really playing to our strengths. We're a neighborhood-based organization. We connect people to services in their neighborhoods where they live so that now that they're out of the hotels, motels and shelters and in the neighborhoods, we can do our job that much better."
Of the total grants, $1.6 million will go to agencies serving the general community. The remainder is distributed among the Jewish community. Wunsch says this is the largest distribution of funds to the general community in the 70 year history of the Jewish Federation.
"It has been "feel-good" since we started about six weeks ago doing this. But you know, when you work in the community, you live in the community and you see all the amazing things that we're doing and others are doing, you should feel good every day"
The different organizations will use the money to provide food, clothing, financial aid, medical services and job placement among other things. The largest grants were $400,000 to Zip Code Assistance Ministries and $299,000 to the Jewish Family Service.