Building a Better World in Victoria, Texas, Following Hurricane Harvey

In Victoria, Texas, home of Caterpillar’s North American excavator manufacturing facility, quality, power and reliability are synonymous with the Cat brand. Words that also go hand in hand with the Caterpillar name? People. Dedication. Community pride.

The Caterpillar Foundation announced last week that it will award a one-time grant of $490,000 to the Victoria County United Way to help drive disaster recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The funds will help address the critical, long-term housing needs that remain for thousands of residents.

“Victoria has done so much for Caterpillar, and we are proud and humbled that the Foundation is giving back to Victoria in a way that will deliver long-lasting value,” said Victoria Facility Manager Art Strother.

Homes Lost, Lives Interrupted

In a tense 24-hour period last August, tens of thousands of Victoria County families secured themselves in their homes and hoped for the best as Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc with torrential rains and raging, 130 mph winds.

The 20 inches of rain that fell caused catastrophic flooding in low-lying areas of town – primarily low-income neighborhoods filled with substandard wooden houses and mobile homes. Many lost everything – their residences, their belongings, their comfort, their peace of mind. More than 35,000 Victoria County households filed insurance claims, with the majority also applying for federal disaster assistance.

All told, Hurricane Harvey displaced nearly 7,000 local families from their homes in what has become the nation’s costliest hurricane to date. The Victoria County United Way and its community partners have worked tirelessly since to help find – and help fund – temporary housing solutions.

Nine months later, as the region continues to recover and rebuild, 2,300 families remain in need of long-term housing assistance. The United Way anticipates these needs to persist at least another year, with permanent solutions to the region’s post-Harvey long-term housing shortfall taking longer to accomplish.

The Caterpillar Foundation is focused on empowering people to develop resilient, sustainable communities, said Foundation President Michele Sullivan. “There are many immediate needs following a disaster like Hurricane Harvey, and we recognize that these needs continue long after the news headlines diminish. We’re proud to support the Victoria community as it shifts its focus to rebuilding, helping to place people back on the path to prosperity.”

Laying the Groundwork for a Permanent Solution

“Hurricane Harvey was devastating to our Caterpillar Victoria family, and to South Texas,”  Strother said. The factory closed for 10 days following the hurricane as emergency management officials, business, partners, coworkers, friends and neighbors worked feverishly to get the community back up and running.

United Way Executive Director Dolly Stokes was overjoyed – and nearly rendered speechless – when she received the news of the $490,000 grant this spring.

“What a tremendous gift from the Caterpillar Foundation,” she said. “I am overwhelmed by the generosity and so moved by what it means can be done for people left without a home, or living in their car and even some now living in tents where their homes used to be.” 

Over the last nine months, Stokes has had the heart-rending opportunity to meet many of the estimated 6,800 area families who lost their homes due to damage from Harvey. She’s seen mobile homes ripped apart, belongings inside destroyed or gone; apartments with walls and floors soaked with water and rendered unlivable; houses with mold growing as thick as a sheet, making the children who lived there sick. 

“There is one family that really makes you hurt,” she said, recounting the story of recently helping a family of 15, three generations of relatives all living together now in a damaged mobile home. At least one of the grandparents is disabled; one child is a quadriplegic.

The grant is critical to helping the Victoria community create suitable permanent housing options for families like this one. “We have a group of very committed and knowledgeable people working together as a committee with the United Way on how best to leverage these funds with grants from the government to put long-term, low-income housing here in our community,” Stokes added.

Added Strother: “We make the world better by our actions, and I can think of no better example of Our Values in Action at Caterpillar – Integrity, Excellence, Teamwork, Commitment and Sustainability – than this nearly half a million dollar investment in our community.”

The Caterpillar Foundation has contributed more than $715 million to help make sustainable progress possible around the world since 1952, providing program support in the areas of environmental sustainability, access to education and basic human needs. Learn more about its global impact at www.togetherstronger.com.

 

Caterpillar leaders announced the Caterpillar Foundation gift to the Victoria County United Way at a special all employee meeting in Victoria last week. Pictured, left to right are Group President Tom Pellette, Excavation Division Vice President Zach Kauk, Dolly Stokes and David Edwards, both of the Victoria County United Way, and Group President Bob De Lange.