COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Providing resources to those struggling around the community is one of REACH Project’s goals. The need for that could have been greater than in 2020.
“We knew we wanted to do something and help but we weren’t really sure what we could do," said Max Gerall, the founder of REACH Project. "We just decided to jump into our community and listen to what they had to say.”
In March and April, staff from all different departments at Texas A&M were laid off due to the pandemic. REACH Project helped hundreds of people file unemployment claims and applications.
“At that point, we really got to merge into our community and hear the needs and struggles of our community," Gerall said. "It really opened our eyes to what all was going on.”
They found out the three biggest needs in the area were: being able to pay rent, having access to technology and food insecurity. REACH Project wanted to create the biggest impact possible so they could only focus on one item. They decided it would be food insecurity.
“It was an awesome initiative," Gerall said. "We started a GoFundMe and a real grassroots campaign where we raised $104,000 and worked with nine local restaurants.”
That money went directly towards helping local restaurants and the Invisible Aggies going without meals.
REACH Project served about 350 people twice a week through the summer. Once school started, the group partnered with the Brazos Valley Food Bank to make donations more sustainable. They continue to do weekly food distributions serving 200 to 240 people at the Fan Field parking lot.
“The support of the A&M community and Bryan/College Station community has just been outstanding," Gerall said. "We get more volunteers signing up to come out and do the food distributions, coordinate the food distributions and pick up the food on our behalf.”
The non-profit said this past year has been a challenging learning experience, but one they are excited to continue moving forward with.
“It’s been awesome, in a weird way to say that I know," Gerall said while laughing. "It’s been really good because I hope this continues long past the pandemic. That appreciation we found for the essential employees will only continue to grow.”
REACH Project also hosts finance, credit repair and homeownership classes for Invisible Aggies weekly.