Prosecutors helping prosecutors with Hurricane Harvey disaster relief

Rob Kepple

TDCAF and TDCAA Executive Director in Austin

When Hurricane Harvey came to visit and just wouldn’t go away, our phones here at TDCAA lit up with people asking, “What can we do to help?” So many people lost their lives and their homes! Our profession was in need, and y’all were anxious to help.
    That is where the Board of the Texas District and County Attorneys Foundation stepped in.  The Foundation is an educational foundation, but IRS rules allow such an existing organization to serve as temporary home for charitable donations aimed at disaster relief. Within no time, the Foundation created the Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund. The fund was a vehicle for donations to support Texas prosecutor office staff impacted by Harvey, with 100 percent of the donations going directly to those in need. The Fund accepted donations through October 31, and relief checks have been distributed. By the end of December, the fund closed with a zero balance.
    A list of all those who donated to the fund is on the back cover of this journal. These folks in very short order donated $37,455 to help our friends restore their lives. Thank you to everyone who reached into their own pockets to help—that is what the Foundation is about. I want to give special recognition to a few folks: Rusty Hardin, who started us off with an anchor gift of $5,000; Travis County Attorney David Escamilla offered a $5,000 matching challenge at TDCAA’s Annual Update, which was enthusiastically met by our membership; and the Criminal Justice Section of the State Bar of Texas generously donated $5,000.
    I also want to thank our friends from around the country. The Cajun Navy sailed to Houston to offer help on the ground, but the Cajun DA’s Association showed up big time—East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore, his assistant Mark Dumaine, Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier, and Louisiana District Attorneys Association staffers Pete Adams and Roxie Barrios Juneau (plus many other Louisiana prosecutors) kicked in. And Hillar, Mark, and John all came to Texas to help in cleanup efforts. Prosecutors from many other states—North Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma, New York, Indiana, and Colorado—also donated. (Thanks to Staten Island Executive Assistant District Attorney Timothy Koller, who not only donated but called to check how everyone was.) The National Association of Prosecutor Coordinators kicked in $1,000, and the National District Attorneys Association added $2,500.  
    Finally, I want to give a shout-out to the entire staff of the Bessemer Cutoff (Alabama) District Attorney’s Office, led by Lynneice Washington. At the very end of the donation period, we received a check that represented a collection from the entire staff. I’m humbled that they took the time to help those in our profession a couple states away.
    Though the aid the Foundation offered cannot make everyone whole, it is part of the healing process, and we should all be proud that when our friends needed help, we stepped up.