WEST, Texas — Nearly half of the private money that was donated toward the recovery effort in West after last year's massive explosion has now been approved for distribution to families trying to rebuild and recover.
On April 17, 2013, the town was devastated when the West Fertilizer Company plant caught fire and exploded. Fifteen people lost their lives, but hundreds more were injured and lost their homes.
Americans donated some $3.6 million in private funds during the town's time of need.
The distribution of that money has steadily increased during the past few months, according to Suzanne Hack, executive director of the West Long-Term Recovery Center.
"The tremendous amount of work that has been done in a very short time is overwhelming," she said.
To date, more than $1.6 million has been earmarked for more than 355 cases--families or individuals--impacted by the disaster.
Hack took over the non-profit in early February after the recovery center came under some scrutiny. A small but vocal group of West residents had complained it was taking far too long to receive any financial assistance.
Misty Lambert, who lived in an apartment complex near the fertilizer plant, was nearly killed in the explosion.
"I was walking out the door," she said. "Then I was screaming."
She endured 20 hours of emergency surgery and had more than 1,000 staples and stitches. Her upper chest is covered in burn marks.
Lambert said when she went to the WLTRC for help last fall, the process was far from smooth.
"It didn't go well," she said. "It seemed like they were more interested in helping the homeowners."
Earlier this year, Lambert said that changed — and her family started receiving rental and bill assistance. It has made a big difference.
"If we wouldn't have had help these past few months, I don't know where we would be," she said.
Hack said the center's goal is to have all of the donation money distributed by the end of the summer.
More than 300 cases remain open.