USA — University of Texas President Bill Powers presented a $725,000 check to the Austin Community Foundation on Oct. 20. The donation will go toward helping residents of Bastrop and affected areas recover from the September wildfires.
The charitable amount represented the net proceeds from “Fire Relief: The Concert for Central Texas” held Oct. 17. Musicians Eric Johnson and Ray Benson coordinated the effort in collaboration with The Messina Group/AEG Live and UT, which provided the concert’s venue: the Frank Erwin Center.
“The more you practice and flex that muscle of giving, the stronger it will get. It should be kind of like breathing to us,” Johnson said. “How hard is it for me to go play music if I love playing music? There are plenty of gigs you can get paid for, so if you do one or two that you don’t get paid for, how hard is that if it makes a difference?”
Austin Community Foundation President and CEO Jeff Garvey received the check. Garvey is one of a handful of people tasked with planning how to delegate the funds to impacted Central Texas communities.
“I’ve lived here in Austin for almost 33 years, and what’s been done in the last matter of weeks, and with this concert Monday night, it’s one of the most epic collaborations of community that I’ve ever witnessed in my time in Austin,” he said. “I think this money is going to go a long way toward helping people who are in serious need.”
Performers included Johnson, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Christopher Cross, Terri Hendrix and Joe Satriani. George Strait and The Dixie Chicks were also in attendance and served as emcees to the event.
The relief will help rectify a disaster that caused an estimated $250 million in damage and losses.
“We all kind of pulled together to make it stronger than it would have been with a bunch of little separate benefits. I think it’s an opportunity. It’s nothing we wouldn’t want for ourselves if we were in the same position,” Johnson said. “It’s in a different currency, maybe not just the currency of money, but a much more important currency: that spirit of giving.”
Powers also spoke to the responsibility UT feels it has to be involved in the relief effort and conveyed an overwhelming push to be proactive and raise moneysomething especially difficult in the current economy.
“This was an event in where, of course the fires were devastating, and people felt, ‘We’ve got to do something,'” he said. “These musiciansRay Benson, Eric Johnson, many other peoplesaid, ‘Well, we’re a music community, let’s do something.’ Of course they needed a venue and we were able to provide that.”
It remains to be seen how exactly the funds will be allocated, but Garvey said ACF has received calls from residents eager to know where the money will be spent.
The foundation has also set up a text message hotline where $10 donations can be made by texting 84465. So far, close to $11,000 has been raised through this initiative alone.