Rose City mayor, Harvey recovery hero receive donation on Megyn Kelly TODAY

Bonnie Stephenson and Eric Klein on Megyn Kelly TODAY.

Rose City Mayor Bonnie Stephenson appeared on Megyn Kelly TODAY on Dec. 6 with her town’s Hurricane Harvey recovery hero Eric Klein, founder and CEO of disaster aid organization, to celebrate his efforts and highlight the ongoing struggles Rose City faces getting people back into their storm-battered houses. During Kelly’s “People Helping People” segment, the pair received a surprise donation – $10,000 from Lowe’s to – to help the small town’s citizens rebuild their homes and their lives.

All but two residences in Rose City were damaged by Harvey’s flooding and the standing water that continued to soak into floors and walls, rotting homes inside and out. According to Stephenson, 90 percent of those impacted by the storm had no flood insurance.

Stephenson spoke with The Examiner in September requesting assistance from the community in the form of gift cards and other much-needed items. In the weeks following Harvey, numerous local and national volunteer organizations answered the call, donating supplies and elbow grease as they assisted in mucking out flood-damaged homes. After three months, most volunteers have gone home. But not Klein is still hard at work in Rose City. Stephenson said he has been enormously helpful and stepped in during a critical time when financial aid from other disaster aid agencies failed to manifest.

“He helped us get organized and helped walk us through the steps to get our people the resources they need,” Stephenson told The Examiner following her appearance on TODAY. “He has been boots on the ground from the very first.”

“I did not know what I was doing,” Stephenson told TODAY. “And Eric came in, and he just kind of took over. It was wonderful.”

When Klein visited Rose City to see the devastation first-hand, he was shocked and angered by the living conditions there. People were sleeping in tents or, even worse, on tarps outside their homes.

In a video clip Klein previously posted to Facebook that was featured on TODAY, an obviously angry Klein says, “People are not going to be able to survive out here like this. No way.”

“I was little heated,” Klein told Kelly on TODAY. “Because it was a situation where we’re the United States of America, man. In the weeks after this, the money that poured in in aid, and then here you have this woman sleeping out on a tarp. It’s not right.”

So Klein brought his Can-Do attitude and got to work. He set up a distribution center, and started doing whatever he could to help.

“I never saw the man stop,” Stephenson told TODAY. “He was putting tents up for us. He was helping citizens load their cars with their supplies. He found out we were having to pay for some of these buildings. Next thing I know, they’re donated.”

“It’s our responsibility to speak up on behalf of these people,” said Klein. “Looking around at this, I do get frustrated. I do get pissed off because these people, they don’t deserve to live like this.”

Kelly commended Klein on his efforts, lauding him for raising $75,000 for Rose City in two weeks time with his latest fundraising campaign and for always being ready to provide bank statements upon request to show exactly where donations are being spent.

“That kind of transparency, Eric, is so unusual,” Kelly remarked, asking Klein what message he would like to get out to the nation.

“I think it’s time that we set a new standard in this country for the way nonprofits are run,” Klein responded. “So many people out there want to help. They want to get involved. I think people are just fed up because you’re not seeing the results.”

Then came the showstopper.

“Now, Mayor Stephenson, you think you’re here for an interview, but in fact we have a little surprise for you – for both of you,” Kelly told Stephenson and Klein. “Lowe’s has donated $10,000 to, which they will be distributing in the form of gift cards to help the people of Rose City rebuild.

“All our respect and love to both of you.”

“That is wonderful! Thank you,” Mayor Stephenson said as Kelly’s crew presented her with an oversized check.

When she heard from Megyn Kelly TODAY, Stephenson was very surprised and little dubious.

“Yeah right,” was her first thought, she recalled, wondering if it was a prank. Once the initial shock wore off, she said she was humbled and pleased that the national program would give the world a glimpse of the great need still existing in Rose City.

“I was surprised and honored that they chose our small community to highlight and help us with our recovery,” said Stephenson.

The recovery efforts themselves are “slow, very slow,” described Stephenson. “We are still hurting, but we are tenacious people and will continue with our work.”

Klein says he is not going anywhere anytime soon and will remain dedicated to helping Rose City recover, but more help is always needed. In addition to donating to the campaign, volunteers are welcome. Visit the website to find out how to help.

“Rose City would appreciate any help the community can give to get our citizens back on their feet and into their homes,” said Stephenson.

A video of the segment on TODAY can be viewed at harvey-1110617667617.

Sharon Brooks can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 241, or by e-mail at sharon [at] theexaminer [dot] com.