Kingwood resident and candidate for the Humble ISD board, Bob Rehak, has decided to direct all campaign donations to Humble Area Assistance Ministries (HAAM), an unprecedented move by any local candidate.
“I was having lunch this week with a friend and we started talking about politics and the incredible amount of money spent on campaigns,” Rehak said, referring to a CBS news article he had read. The article estimated $6.8 billion was spent on federal campaigns in 2016 alone.
“I started imagining what the total figure would be if state and local races were included, and my friend and I talked about all the good that money could do spent elsewhere. I decided to have my campaign donations go to HAAM because they need the money way more than I do,” he said.
HAAM is a faith-based organization founded in 1990 to provide essential resources to community residents in crisis and help them gain self-sufficiency. Nearly 70 percent of HAAM clients are Humble ISD families.
“Humble Area Assistance Ministries has had the honor of serving the greater Lake Houston area for over 25 years. We also appreciate those who seek to serve our wonderful community, whether it be as a volunteer or donor at HAAM, through their church or as an elected official or candidate for public office. As a tax-exempt public charity under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3), HAAM may not either directly or indirectly participate in or intervene in a political office or condone the use of its name, logo, web address or any identifying marks by any candidate for public office,” said Terry Vaughn, HAAM board chairman.
Rehak has volunteered in the past at the Montgomery County Food Bank, where he was part of a team that raised funds to purchase six million pounds of food during the 2008 economic downturn, when 20 to 25 percent of Montgomery County was unemployed. Much of that food, Rehak said, was distributed to school-aged children. He also noted that, due to the generosity of community, grocer and restaurant donations, food pantries can typically feed an individual for $1 per day.
“Just think, if we took $6.8 billion and divided that by 365 days per year, we could feed millions of people,” Rehak said. HAAM provided meals to approximately 9,000 families in 2016. Rehak stated that while there are so many worthy charities in the Humble area, he chose HAAM for their extraordinary ability to identify people with the greatest need.
News of the remarkable suggestion quickly got dozens of likes on social media and enthusiastic comments.
“Wow! Thank You! I teach at a Title 1 school in Humble ISD and I know many of my students and their families benefit from services like those provided by HAAM. This is money well spent,” said one poster on the Humble ISD Parents Facebook forum.
“So impressed! A heart of gold and using an opportunity to refocus attention onto community needs,” wrote another.
Rehak’s request prompted this from Kingwood resident Ted Mandel: “I just made a $100 donation to HAAM in honor of Bob Rehak. I chose for the money to go to their food pantry. Hope anyone who sees this will do what they can to cure hunger in our community.”
Rehak, a candidate for Position 1 on the board, has lived in Humble ISD for 33 years, and noted that economic disparity has always been an issue. He has researched those in poverty in the Humble area, which HAAM estimates to be 20 percent of City of Humble residents, and has made the issue of poverty, and its effects on the schools, a central element of his campaign. Rehak says that children are underrepresented in the 20 percent estimate, and that the figure is closer to 25 percent, higher than Harris County and state of Texas levels, and significantly higher than the nation as a whole.
In Humble ISD, 35 percent of students qualify as economically disadvantaged, and Rehak points out that the free or reduced school lunch is the only meal of the day for many of these students. “That’s why it’s so important for groups like HAAM to supplement what the schools do,” said Rehak.
Rehak previously worked on a Children’s Defense Fund campaign to break the “cradle-to-prison pipeline” that stems from poverty, and said that it costs pennies to intervene and break the cycle early in a child’s life, compared to waiting to intervene later in life.
Rehak attended the March 2 Atascocita BizCom meeting, and reflected on hearing his opponent, Robert Sitton’s, presentation on dissatisfaction with the new state of Texas A-F school rating system.
Sitton, Rehak noted, pointed out disparities in the rating system, particularly citing how the ratings were particularly unfair to Title 1 schools. Sitton used one example of Humble ISD placing in the top 5 percent of Texas schools in the AP College Honor Roll, yet rating a “D” in college and career readiness.
Rehak said, “I’m sure there are issues with the grading system, but I would rather tackle the real problem of Title 1 schools, which is poverty, rather than focus on how those schools are graded.”
Title I refers to Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards. Humble ISD has 11 Title 1 schools.