Steamboat businesses raise $27K to help people impacted by Hurricane Harvey | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat businesses raise $27K to help people impacted by Hurricane Harvey

The Laundry staff wearing the new Ohana shirts in support of donations to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In the hours following Hurricane Harvey’s landfall in Rockport, Texas, Aug. 25, it was easy to see that compassion and support for the state of Texas would be needed.

"Just seeing the need inspired us to do this," Steamboat Springs business owner Rex Brice said of helping to organize a fundraiser to aid the people of Texas in the wake of the category 4 hurricane that rocked the state. "I know that there are a lot of people who could use help out there right now. This was just the thing we chose to put our efforts into. A lot of our community and a lot of our employees are from Texas, and people we know have been  affected by this — so this really sort of hit home for us."

The hurricane not only wiped out Rockport, but in the days that followed, dumped as much as 40 inches of rain on many Texas cities including Houston, which was flooded. As the news spread and images of flooded homes, businesses and cities were seen on every major news channel, people in Steamboat Springs wanted to help.

Brice teamed up with Ohana, Yampa Valley Bank and the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs to host a large fundraising effort.

"I think that we all saw that need," Brice said. "Sometimes, it takes some sort of catalyst to get us going, to figure out how to make something happen. When I called Yampa Valley Bank, they were already thinking about how they could contribute … Steve (Sehnert, Rotary Club president) and many others had already been talking about how we could help as a Rotary Club, and so it just sort of gave us all an opportunity to pull together.”

Rex's Family of Restaurants donated half of the money they made on the Tuesday following Harvey’s landfall to the cause, and Yampa Valley Bank matched those donations up to $2,500.

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"It was one of those wonderful things about being in a community like Steamboat … where a business owner like Rex would have an epiphany, or a great idea, and would like to reach out to another fellow business leaders like myself and say, 'Hey what do you think, would you like to team up?'" said PJ Wharton, president and CEO of Yampa Valley Bank.

"Obviously, we thought it was great idea,” Wharton said.  "It's about communities helping other communities, and what I was so proud of with the entire group is that it took 48 hours for us all to be committed to work together and to promote the event and to team up with Rotary, who was in contact with a great club in Texas that we know would directly benefit locals who needed it. We used the benefit of a small community — the quick communication, the quick response and a pretty dramatic outcome."

The owners of Ohana also joined the effort, creating the Steamboat loves Houston T-shirt.

"There was a lot of synergy with what everyone was doing," Ohana owner Luke Dudley said. "Everyone’s social media efforts got behind it, all the employees at all of Rex's places had shirts … there was definitely a lot of energy behind the event in a super quick fashion."

Dudley said the shirts will be available for purchase at his stores through this weekend. He said the effort has already raised $1,600 and he is hoping to see that total reach $2,000.

Brice and Wharton said the connection to Rotary was also important, and that because of the group's wide reach, they know where the money will be going and that it will help the people who need it the most.

"Cash seemed to be what they needed most, and we stepped up and Rex and Yampa Valley Bank came along with us and we are up to $27,000 now," said Steve Sehnert, of the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs. "We had done something similar after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. We did a book drive called, Books for the Bayou, because all their books had been ruined in the libraries, and so we wanted to do something, but we felt in the case of Houston cash was something they needed right away."

Sehnert said one of the club’s members, Ryan Curry, has ties to the area impacted by Harvey. Curry's father lives in Humble, Texas, and is a member of the Humble Rotary Club. His father's home and business were flooded. 

“I think it is pretty amazing what Steamboat has done for Humble,” Curry said. ” I’ve been there for the last 10 days helping my family and friends out at it is a total disaster. If you can imagine going into your house and taking out every single thing— bathtubs, sinks, all the cabinets, drywall carpet and everything— and putting it on your front lawn with 30 of your closest neighbors.”

Rotary also has also a connection to the Humble Rotary Club through John Centner, who is working through a Ford dealership in Houston and knows an employee there who is a member of the Humble Rotary Club.

"We are going to go down there and present a check, and they have promised to come here and tell us how the money was used," Sehnert said. "When we go down there, we are going to try to do some project work and help out as much as we can."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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