Written by: Jeffrey L. Boney, Houston Forward Times

ABOVE: Jalene Mack, Jerome Love, Sarah Shoemaker, Stacey Lewis, Darryl Hubbard, Elizabeth Toc, April Langston and Rushion McDonald at Hurricane Harvey Small Business Relief Fund check presentation ceremony

The devastating impact that Hurricane Harvey has recently had on Houston, Texas and surrounding cities has resulted in unprecedented losses for many.

The massive devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and other areas in Texas aren’t limited to homes with soggy carpets and ruined drywall. Unfortunately, those suffering losses also include thousands of small businesses whose operations have been shut down by the storm and who have endured the unexpected losses of real estate, equipment, inventory and revenue; many of whom have to close their doors for an undetermined amount of time while figuring out how to make ends meet.

In response to this tragedy, the Texas Black Expo, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, in partnership with Emmy® Award-winning producer, entrepreneur, and Houston native Rushion McDonald (“Steve Harvey,” “Family Feud,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” the Neighborhood Awards, etc.), recently joined forces to create the Hurricane Harvey Small Business Relief Fund – an initiative designed to raise emergency micro-funding for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the affected regions that have experienced storm-related losses.

As part of the initiative, eligible applicants are receiving a one-time grant of $1,000 within 48 business hours of application approval. These grants can be used for the replacement of office supplies, office furniture, or office equipment, as well as for office clean-up and minor remodeling projects.

This past Monday, September 4th, the Forward Times was on hand to witness the first five grant recipients receive their grants at a check presentation ceremony held at the Texas Black Expo offices.

Some of the people on hand to join Love, McDonald and the small business recipients at the check presentation ceremony, included Houston Area Urban League President and CEO Judson Robinson III; Dr. Dana Carson, founder and senior pastor of The R.O.C.K. Church; Jalene Mack; several members of the Texas Black Expo board of directors; and many more.

“One of the key focuses of the Texas Black Expo is strengthening businesses,” said Texas Black Expo President & Founder Jerome Love. “We realize that strong businesses are the cornerstone of strong communities, so it is imperative that we do all we can to help small businesses recover so that our communities can come back stronger than ever.”

According to Love, the impetus for the idea came as a result of the realization that among the many relief efforts that are taking place to help the city recover, small businesses would also require a substantial amount of assistance to rebound from the losses they have incurred as a result of the storm.

This mission resounded with Rushion McDonald, who has been nationally recognized as a pioneer in supporting small business development for decades.

“For the past 20 years, I have celebrated the uplifting and growth of small businesses in this country,” said McDonald. “I created the Neighborhood Awards that highlights small businesses of all kinds across the country, and it is the reason I launched ‘Money Making Conversations’, a show that empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses, which can be heard via iHeartRadio Podcast and KYND Radio (1520 AM). Partnering with the Texas Black Expo to raise funds for hurricane-damaged small businesses is an opportunity to continue my small business support.”

The awardees who were present to receive their awards expressed gratitude about what the grants mean to them and how they will help them recover what was lost.

Center Stage Events hosts all types of affairs, from weddings and birthdays to baby showers and painting parties, but Hurricane Harvey left the venue in complete disarray. The owner, Stacey Lewis, is working to get the business up and running again, and says that the micro-grant from the Hurricane Harvey Small Business Relief Fund will provide some much-needed assistance.

“It means a whole lot in terms of getting up and running and back into business,” said Lewis. “As a small business owner, often times you don’t have all of the resources that larger companies and corporations have. The grant is impactful in that it helps us to operate our business the way that we were before the hurricane.”

April Langston is the proprietor of Pilates by April. In addition to the damage sustained at her Pilates studio, many of her clients are first responders whose focus has been on saving lives and helping others. The funds she received from the grant will help fill the gap she lost in revenue.

Jerome Love, Dr. Dana Carson and Rushion McDonald

“The grant means that my business can continue to prosper and live on and recover from the damage of hurricane Harvey,” said Langston. “I was not able to access my studio for over a week, and my clientele have suffered. They are out in the trenches working to keep power restored and people alive, and in turn that means they cannot come see me. I also have clients who are victims of the hurricane. Their first priority is to get their homes in order.”

Darryl Hubbard’s small business is in the printing and graphic design industry. He lost valuable computer equipment which is needed to service his clients. He calls the relief fund a blessing to his business, Prospers Printing and Design.

“For someone to think about people who are normally forgotten is awesome,” said Hubbard. “This has prompted me to give a portion of my grant back to raise funds for others. It’s only right.”

Sarah Shoemaker’s cleaning company, Working Object, lost thousands of dollars in equipment, which ended up being submerged underwater as a result of the storm.

“The funds will help me get back on my feed,” said Shoemaker. “We’re going to start replacing mop heads, dust mops, towels, cleaning supplies and other small soft items. The heavier equipment may have to come later.”

Elizabeth Toc, owner of The Tailored Tail – a dog grooming business – is touched by the effort of others who are willing to lend a helping hand.

“The fact that people got together to donate is wonderful,” said Toc. “It doesn’t matter how big or small the grant is, it is about being able to get our foot back in the door and being able to buy what we need to open the doors and have our customers come back – it’s just amazing.”

The organizers are seeking to raise $100,000 to assist other small businesses; small businesses that are so vital to our communities and economy, in their recovery after the devastating losses they have suffered as a result of this historical event.

Anyone interested in making a donation to the Texas Black Expo Hurricane Harvey Small Business Relief Fund can visit www.texasblackexpo.com.

To apply for emergency micro-funding relief for your small businesses affected by Hurricane Harvey, there is a Hurricane Harvey Small Business Relief Application process which is as followed:

Visit www.texasblackexpo.com
Click on the Hurricane Harvey Relief banner to download the application.
Complete application.
Send completed application to one of the following:
You can send a fax to 832-615-3065 OR send an email to info@texasblackexpo.com
Applicants will receive notification that the application has been received.
50 applications will be reviewed per day (on a first-come, first-served basis). All approved applicants will be notified via e-mail.
Funds will be available for pick-up within 48 business hours of application approval.
Note: Awarding of relief grants will be contingent upon the availability of resources remaining in the funding pool at the time the application is received. All relief grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Article originally published in the Houston Forward Times. Click here to view orginal article.