It’s March 17, and A.J. De Los Santos is stressing out over the news.
Lorena Castillo and Becca Titus were right behind him on the stress-o-meter.
As the staff of United Way of Lea County, they just learned that the United Way worldwide organization sent down a decree that each local non-profit agency needs to immediately create a Community Crisis Recovery Fund to help with the current COVID-19 pandemic. The fund would be used to help individuals directly affected by the pandemic in terms of job loss. Funding would be given to help with a utility bill or groceries.
“Some United Way’s in the country already have one,” said De Los Santos, United Way of Lea County’s campaign and event coordinator. “You see them in places where natural disasters, like tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding, take place often. Thankfully, we don’t have those happen here, at least with tornadoes not often enough to have a crisis fund.
“That’s why we weren’t ready to create this fund. Our annual campaign is scheduled to start up in June and we can’t go to our donors too often. Especially they way things are in Lea County.”
In an oil and gas rich area, when the price of a barrel of oil dips to $18, not only are there less employees, but there are less businesses. De Los Santos was seeing that firsthand.
“I called the owners of some local oil and gas companies asking about the idea of donating and they’re telling me they would help out in any other way than donating money,” De Los Santos said. “You can’t blame them. They are laying off employees and cutting back hours. How can they justify donating to us when they are forced to that?”
Seven stressful days later, the staff came up with a plan, including promotional graphics and the idea for a video. They even found a way to get some fundraising.
That’s when they got the call from, ironically, the Chevron Corporation. One of the largest companies in the oil and gas industry called Monday and offered a donation of $65,000 to the crisis fund.
“It’s one of those really, really awesome things,” De Los Santos said. “We went from being super-stressed to seeing that we have a great foundation to start this fund.”
The donation is part of a $230,000 Chevron is contributing across the Permian Basin to non-profit organizations responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the United Way of Lea County, other area organizations to receive funding include the West Texas Food Bank and the Eddy County United Way.
Chevron and its legacy companies have operated in the Permian Basin for almost 100 years,” stated Don Puckett, general manager of Operations for the Chevron Mid-Continent Business Unit. “We have weathered many storms alongside our Permian communities, and we will weather this one the same way we have the others – together and with a focus on helping our neighbors in need.”
That’s sort of the same focus the United Way of Lea County is taking to the crisis fund. De Los Santos said the current marketing campaign involves the message, “Lea County Strong.”
“We are strong,” De Los Santos said. “We will pull together. We will recover from this and it will make us even stronger.”