A relief fund to assist Brewster County residents, including students at Sul Ross State University, has recently been established through the efforts of Big Bend Citizens Alliance (BBCA) and an SRSU alumna.

BBCA–a non-profit organization with volunteers from Alpine, Terlingua, Lajitas and Marathon–started the Big Bend COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund to help Brewster County residents recover from economic hardships of the coronavirus crisis.

“As the pandemic hit the US, several of us worried that the economic collateral damage was going to hurt a lot of people in our rural, tourism-dependent region,” said BBCA member and former Sul Ross student Megan Wilde.

“Sul Ross students are a big part of the community in Alpine, and the relief fund is here to help them too.”

Wilde said the relief fund is currently collecting donations that will be used to assist people who recently lost jobs or income because of mandatory or voluntary business closures.

“It will take a while for these people to receive unemployment benefits and qualify for low-income programs,” said Wilde.

“But meanwhile they still have rent to pay and need to buy food and gas. We are trying to fill this gap a little by giving them cash assistance, as well as helping them find other sources of support.”

She noted that the relief fund depends entirely on donations from the community.

“So we won’t be able to pay everyone’s rent, as much as we wish that was possible,” she said.

“We’ll also be giving funds to existing local non-profits that meet people’s basic needs, like the food pantry,” said Wilde. “The demand for these services is surging just as many organizations have lost donations from thrift store closures, event cancellations and tightening pocketbooks.”

Wilde added that BBCA is helping in non-monetary ways as well during the pandemic.

Cathy Wright, a local volunteer, is gathering donations of medical supplies, such as masks and gloves, that are needed by health care and service workers when the pandemic hits the area.

Other volunteer initiatives include making fabric masks following the CDC’s recommendation that people where masks in public settings.

Anyone who lives in Brewster County and recently lost a job or income because of the pandemic—including Sul Ross students—is eligible to apply for cash assistance from the relief fund.

“There is an online application at bigbendaid.org, and printed applications are available at WesTex Community Credit Union, Alpine Community Credit Union, the Marathon Post Office, and the Terlingua Crisis Center,” said Wilde.

Application deadline for the first round of funding is April 15.

“We hope to begin a second round of funding on May 15,” Wilde said. “Teams of volunteers will be following up with applicants to get more information and advise them on other ways to get help.”

Wilde said another volunteer committee will then use a points-based system to decide as fairly and objectively as possible how to distribute relief funds.

“Hopefully by the last week of April,” she said.

Donations are being accepted at the relief fund website, bigbendaid.org. Donations to Big Bend Citizens Alliance at West Texas National Bank branches are also accepted.

“Please specify that your donation is for the pandemic relief fund,” Wilde said.

Checks can be mailed to the following address:

BBCA

PO Box 202

Terlingua, TX 79852 (include “pandemic relief fund” in the memo line)

For more information, including applying for funding, visit bigbendaid.org.