Disaster Relief Edition


In just 56 hours, Hurricane Harvey grew from a regenerated tropical depression over the Gulf of Mexico into a Category 4 hurricane as it made landfall near the Texas Gulf Coast late on August 25th.  Wind gusts from Harvey topped 100 mph in many locations, leading to widespread destruction of homes and buildings. Harvey’s flooding caused one of the worst weather disasters in U.S. history, with a price tag that will amount to billions of dollars.

If that wasn’t enough, Hurricane Irma then made two landfalls in Florida less than a month later one in the Keys and another one near Marco Island. Irma is one of only five hurricanes that have reached sustained wind speeds of 185 mph or greater, and for a record breaking 37 hours. Irma also tied the Cuba hurricane of 1932 for the longest lifetime as a Category 5 in the Atlantic Basin. This is the first time on record that two Category 4 landfalls occurred in the continental United States in the same hurricane season, much less within 16 days.

Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria rapidly intensified from a Category 1 to a Category 5 hurricane. The eye of Maria came ashore near the town of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on September 20th as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. Maria was the strongest Puerto Rican landfall since 1928. Prior to both Irma and Maria, only four other Category 4 hurricanes had tracked within 75 miles of central Puerto Rico according to historical records dating back to the late 19th century.

A few short weeks later, a series of fires broke out in Northern California, leveling nearly a quarter of a million acres of land and taking the lives of more than 40 people. Governor Jerry Brown stated, “This is truly one of the greatest tragedies California has ever faced.”
The residual damage in each of these locations has been devastating, some even describing the scenes as “apocalyptic.” The stories coming in are all unique and different, but one common thread ties each one of these stories together. These areas are all home to movie theaters and members of our industry family who have been affected and need our help.

Providing a Helping Hand

The Pioneers Assistance Fund (PAF) is a program of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation that serves members of the motion picture entertainment industry (exhibition, distribution and trade services) who are encountering an illness, injury or life-changing event. All assistance is intended to provide support during a recovery or adjustment period and lay the foundation for a lifetime of ongoing success.

“You have been an amazing what your foundation has done for me.  I am so relieved to make the rent and know that my kids would have a home.  There are not enough words in the human language to thank you.  Thank you so much for bringing hope to Houston.”

The PAF is providing aid in the form of Bernie Myerson Emergency Grants in amounts of $250, $500, or $1,000 to individuals affected by the recent storms. To date, the Pioneers Assistance Fund has issued 150 grants to industry members to help with everything from living expenses, transportation needs, medical attention, food and temporary housing.


“While I was fortunate enough to be unaffected by the flooding, the storm still did cost me work hours, both at the theater and at my second job.  This was a bit difficult for me since I have rent, tuition, and car payments to make every month.  I appreciate the generosity you are willing to offer and I am grateful for any help you might give.”

The PAF is here to provide supportive counseling and crisis intervention to all clients to bridge the gap while they wait for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other relief programs. Because so many victims were experiencing prolonged shock, they needed to gain clarity of thought to determine best next steps. Over the phone, our social workers employ clinical expertise to assess the effects of trauma, disturbance of thoughts, fears, and anxieties related to health, well-being, and financial burden. Working from afar can be a challenge, but our social workers offer hope, patience, guidance, support and ongoing telephone availability to help our clients navigate their recovery—and will continue to so every step of the way.

“I used what little savings I had to prepare for the hurricane, only to be flooded and forced to relocate to a shelter with my two young children. Thanks to the Bernie Myerson Emergency Grant my kids and I were able to move into a motel and stay current with bills until FEMA provided a relocation grant.”


Stories of the Storm

Due to the devastating damage caused by the storm, a woman was forced to evacuate to an emergency shelter. The storm had left the home intact, but the doors and windows were blown  off leaving the home unsafe. Thanks to an emergency grant she was able to replace the doors and windows and returned to a safe, secure home.

As Hurricane Maria raged through Puerto Rico, a man and his daughter and granddaughter did their best to prepare themselves for what was coming, but there was not enough time. They sat in the house as the heavy rains and winds pounded above them, and with one strong gust the entire roof of the home was blown off and sent into the trees. A grant from the PAF enabled the man to purchase roofing supplies to repair the roof and keep his family safe and dry as the rains continued.

A young newlywed Texas couple had recently moved into their dream home. They finally had a place to call their own and display all the priceless wedding gifts they had received. Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey came through and destroyed virtually everything they owned. A grant from PAF allowed the newlyweds to replace their bedroom furniture and begin the process of recovering from the devastation.


1. Donate blood (visit redcross.org/give-blood to find a blood drive near you)
2. Host a garage sale and donate proceeds to the PAF
3. Designate one month’s dinner-out money to PAF


Imagine you live paycheck to paycheck. Every dollar earned and spent has been planned and accounted for by the time it reaches your bank account. Now picture one of the worst natural disasters in recent history taking away everything you own, and your ability to work.

We ask that you take this opportunity to continue the tradition of taking care of our own. Join us and make it possible for the Pioneers Assistance Fund to continue providing grants to our colleagues in exhibition as  they begin rebuilding.

Below are some examples of the types of purchases being made with PAF grants.

$ 1000 Help replace larger  household items such as furniture, lighting fixtures and larger appliances

$500 Help replace household items such as dishes, linens, cookware and small appliances

$250 Provide medical supplies such as replacing  eyeglasses, refilling prescriptions and assistive devices

$100 Allow families to restock pantries with canned goods, dry goods and shelf stable items