HOUSTON – A historic Third Ward community center that struggled to find funding for repairs after major damage from Hurricane Harvey is now the recipient of a multimillion dollar gift.
On Tuesday, the state of Qatar announced it was providing the Blue Triangle Multicultural Association and Community Center with a grant for $4,988,123.
The money is part of Qatar's $30 million Harvey Fund that has provided monies for a variety of nonprofit organizations in the aftermath of the 2017 storm.
"Helping to provide continued access to educational resources and opportunities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is a primary goal of the Qatar Harvey Fund," said Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar's ambassador to the U.S. and chair of the Qatar Harvey Fund in a news release about the donation.
What is the Blue Triangle?
The Blue Triangle Community Center dates back to 1920 when it became the first branch of Houston's YWCA. After decades leasing space at various buildings throughout Third Ward, a group of 10 women purchased land at 3005 McGowen St. and completed construction on the current building in 1951.
In 1998, when the Houston YWCA lost United Way funding, branches were sold, and the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Association bought the building for $1 to keep it open to the community and preserve the history and traditions. The building houses activity and meeting rooms, a gym and a pool where the center operates its signature swimming and water safety program.
Hurricane Harvey caused severe damage to the building's original 66-year-old roof that was already in need of repair. Water got into the building, creating conditions that damaged a historic mural by legendary artist Dr. John Biggers.
"We were truly afraid that we were going to lose our wonderful art piece," said Charlotte Kelly Bryant, executive director of the Blue Triangle.
The molded mural was restored thanks to conservationists from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
But money was still needed to make repair and renovate the badly damaged building.
What we know
The organization applied for an initial round of Harvey relief funding but was denied. They applied again and this time were approved for the nearly $5 million grant from the Qatar Harvey Foundation.
"I can hardly believe it. I pinch myself because it is truly a blessing," Bryant said.
Construction is expected to begin in a few weeks with renovations due to be complete by February 2020.