Children’s needs a priority for Beaumont Foundation

Children’s needs a priority for Beaumont Foundation

When Hurricane Harvey rained down on Southeast Texas at the end of August, hundreds of children already uprooted from their homes due to incidences of abuse and neglect yet again had their lives thrown into turmoil. Some lost all.

“I got a call from the Beaumont Foundation ... asking me if Child Protective Services needed any help with clothing or shoes for children in the area that were affected by Hurricane Harvey, and of course, I said yes,” local CPS community liaison Shari Pulliam said. Pulliam warned the Beaumont Foundation’s Board of Directors that the need was great, as the child fostering agency had 260 children from Jefferson, Hardin, and Orange counties in need of assistance due to losses incurred during Harvey’s devastating impact.

The Beaumont Foundation didn’t hesitate in its response: It would help them all. For each of the 260 children impacted by Hurricane Harvey while staying in foster care through CPS, the Beaumont Foundation of America gifted a $250 Target gift card and a $25 gift card from Jason’s Deli. The young storm survivors were treated to the surprise endowments during a once-in-a-lifetime shopping spree hosted at Target’s Mid-County location on Saturday, Oct. 7, and Sunday, Oct. 8.

In a special press conference Sept. 5 at the Jefferson County Courthouse, Jon Huntsman and Beaumont Foundation chairman Wayne A. Reaud pledged millions to help people in local communities who need it the most.

“There is truly a lot of misery in this community, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon,” said Reaud.

Oct. 4, Huntsman employees went up and down streets handing out gift cards to families, one of many initiatives to come.

“Our Board of Directors that sponsored this event, our chairman Wayne A. Reaud, Buddy Low and Jon Huntsman believe in clothing and feeding those in need — and that’s what we’re doing here today,” Ed Keller, Beaumont Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer, said while enjoying the laughter and good vibes emanating through the children beneficiaries as well as the foster families who serve as their support system.

“We had given out clothing vouchers to our kids for school shopping at the end of the summer,” Pulliam advised while young shoppers nearby picked out selections in the bustling aisles of Target. But that assistance was before disaster struck. “Of course, most of those clothes were ruined by the storm, so most of our kids did not have new clothes to start school with. This was a very welcome surprise.”

Derek and Misti Grooms of Orange, who took part in the Target shopping spree Oct. 7, have a total of six children, four of whom are foster children.

Derek, who just lost his house to a fire last November, said with the help of family, friends and his church, he and his family were able to bounce back from the tragedy.

“We had nothing after our house burned down and just through everyone at our church and our family giving us stuff, we were able to rebound,” he said.

In fact, Derek said he and Misti were so moved by the entire experience that they felt called to become foster parents to help children who had fallen on hard times like they had. Derek said he and Misti have been foster parents for more than two years and have fostered a total of 17 kids.

Misti said she was extremely grateful to the Beaumont Foundation and its founder, Wayne A. Reaud, for helping them bounce back when they again found themselves hit with hard times.

“It’s ... a big help to be able to shop for clothes for all the kids,” she said. “When you have this many kids to buy for, and you spend your own money it’s a lot, so being able to have this $250 a kid to spend is outstanding. It really does help. Thank you so much.”

Keller said it’s the Foundation’s prime purpose to provide for those in need. According to him, the Foundation spends around $1 million a year for events like this and similar shopping sprees for foster care children, all across the state of Texas.

The Beaumont Foundation, given rise in 2001 through a legal settlement with Toshiba structured by Beaumont attorney and philanthropist Wayne A. Reaud, forced the company to put all unclaimed funds from a class action lawsuit into public service funding that has since been used to foster the development of knowledge, advance human welfare, nurture individual creativity, strengthen institutions and contribute to the well-being of the less fortunate in Southeast Texas. Given the mission foundation of the non-profit, it wasn’t difficult for the Beaumont Foundation’s Board of Directors to agree on seeking out underserved children to help in the aftermath of Harvey’s disaster.

Foster parent Patricia Spears called it a blessing for her family.

“This is helping our family a great deal because we lost two houses in the storm,” Spears, of Orange, said. “We had 4 feet of water in one and the other had three and a half, but the floor and foundation are both messed up.”

Spears said she didn’t have flood insurance because her home, which she’s been living in for more than 26 years without any flood problems, wasn’t considered to be in a flood zone.

Like many families in Southeast Texas, reliance on predictions of “heavy rainfall” that turned into virtual rivers poured into Golden Triangle homes brought heartache. Among other things, Spears and her children lost all their clothes in the deluge.

Spears said Quincy, Quin’tral and Zanyal, who have lived with her for the last three years, will now be able to return to school in West Orange with new clothes. And the blessings keep rolling in. The kids recently found out they are now eligible to find permanent homes as well.

“I just want to tell the Beaumont Foundation, thank you so much, because these kids really appreciate it,” Spears said.

Pulliam said she is certain the joy the kids felt that weekend will last long after the tags are popped and the shoes broken in.

“I can’t tell you how many phone calls and texts and e-mails I have gotten from the caregivers who were just very, very thankful that the Beaumont Foundation chose Child Protective Services to give this ultimate shopping spree to our children,” she said. “Some of the kids came up afterward and told me that it was the best day of their lives. They were super excited to go to school Monday in clothes that they were able to pick out for themselves. The event overall was absolutely amazing."