My heart literally broke in the days, weeks and months that followed August 29th, 2005, and the disaster that the world called Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Part of that heartbreak was just the indifference.
One year later, things are different; at least for those we were able to help through Project Restore HOPE. I am very proud of what we were able to do, with more than $12 million in grants, refunds and EITC payments awarded to victims over the past 12 months, and more than 16,000 victims assisted through Project Restore HOPE, on the telephone, in person and through our partners. And of course, I am proud of the leadership of Lance Triggs, my executive vice president for all programs and field operations at HOPE, and Fred D. Smith, director of HOPE Coalition America, pictured here with former President Clinton and I in Gulf Port, Mississippi.
And then You have the leadership of our friends and partners at H & R Block, led by Mark Ernest, its chairman and CEO, and Bernie Wilson their SVP and our project leader, that volunteered hundreds of their people, donated more than $500,000 in tax prep services, and helped us return more than $11 million in tax refunds and of that, $6.5 million in EITC refunds to victims.
Or my friends at First American Corporation, led by Craig DeRoy, Landon Taylor and Anand Nallathambi, who provided outstanding leadership from day one, and with it our essential call center (virtual HOPE Center) in Poway, California – without which there would have been no Project Restore HOPE response.
And there was E Trade Financial, led by my friend and national board member Arlen Gelbard, and friends Matt Geary and Celie Niehaus, that made a $500,000 grant commitment to the victims; helping those that were either under insured or had no insurance at all. Now that’s leadership, and even better still, more than $400,000 in grants actually awarded, $2,000 per award on average, says results.
And then of course, we have President Bill Clinton and his Clinton Foundation. Not only was President Clinton a voice for HOPE and the voiceless, with critical internal leadership provided by the brilliant Trooper Sanders, his domestic policy advisor, he also made real commitments to our work; initially a $25,000 grant for 2 on the ground consultants in the Gulf Coast, and later a $750,000 grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.
Yes, together we all made in a difference in the lives of others. This my friends, is reason to be proud. Okay now, more work yet to be done…
Onward, with HOPE
John Hope Bryant