Rockport campaign raises $22,000 for Texas hurricane relief

By Louis Bettcher | Nov 07, 2017
Courtesy of: Rick Bates Rockport, Texas, City Manager Kevin Carruth, left, accepts a check presented by Rockport, Maine, Town Manager Rick Bates to aid in hurricane relief efforts.

Rockport — A GoFundMe page created by the town of Rockport to aid relief efforts in Rockport, Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey has raised more than $22,000.

A group of Maine responders, including Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley and Selectman Owen Casas, had organized a team to go to Texas and participate in relief efforts, but were not called to serve by Texas officials. Nonetheless, the funds raised by the local campaign have been presented to the Texas city.

Rockport Town Manager Rick Bates presented Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth with a check from the GoFundMe campaign in person while attending the annual International City/County Management Association conference in San Antonio last month.

"This [campaign] was not my idea, it was the effort of a lot of people trying to figure out a way to help and was sparked by Owen Casas' efforts to help in some way. Initially we were going to send first responders to help, but in the end it seemed like funds to help rebuild was the best way," said Bates Nov. 6.

Bates said that he and Carruth shared a mutual desire that the money be used to assist first responders in Texas whose own homes were damaged in the storm.

"We also talked about building a bridge between the two Rockports in a Sister City relationship that would go beyond this one effort," added Bates, who said that at this time there are no plans for Rockport responders to visit the Texas city of the same name.

The fundraising campaign went live on the town's website immediately following an emergency meeting of the Rockport Select Board Aug. 29.

Three of the five selectmen, Chairman Ken McKinley, Casas and Tom Gray, were present at the meeting and voted unanimously to approve creation of the "Hurricane Harvey - Rockport, Texas" fundraising account for the purpose of raising monies for the relief effort in Texas.

At the meeting, Casas, who also represents Rockport in the Maine House of Representatives, said he was eager to join the group of five firefighters from the Rockport Fire Department on the 35-hour drive to Texas. The six men were planning to make the trip in two pickup trucks, one privately owned, and a town-owned truck used by Peasley.

The board also decided that the maximum time for the group to be on the ground assisting in Texas would not exceed seven days. In Peasley's absence, the Rockport Fire Department would have been led by Deputy Chief Todd Philbrook.

By Sept. 5, the fundraising campaign had exceeded its initial goal of $15,000: in just six days, visitors to the "Hurricane Harvey - Rockport, Texas" page had donated $17,636.

McKinley and Bates credited Casas and Peasley with spearheading the fundraising and outreach project. Gray said he hoped the Rockport to Rockport outreach program was about more than "creating a soundbite," and that a relationship between the two communities could continue.

In the days and weeks that followed, Casas and Peasley awaited word from Texas officials regarding when the presence of Maine responders would be most useful.

"I want to make sure that we will be down there making a difference physically -- tearing down houses, helping rebuild, taking down trees. It all depends on what [Rockport, Texas, Fire Chief Steve Sims] tells us they need," Peasley said Sept. 5.

"A lot of these men who have volunteered [for the trip] have full-time jobs, and one is in college, so once we get down there we want to be active and helping, not just standing around," said Peasley, who had been in communication with Sims.

In addition to sharing a name, Rockport, Maine, and Rockport, Texas, are both situated on the coast.

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