Former presidents raise $31 million for hurricane relief fund

Last Updated Oct 22, 2017 7:14 AM EDT

AUSTIN, Texas -- A hurricane relief concert in Texas Saturday night featured the five living former U.S. presidents appearing together for the first time since 2013. 

Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were on stage at the start of the concert in College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, where the elder Bush's presidential library is located. They joined together to raise money to help victims of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

An initiative launched by the five living former presidents has raised $31 million for hurricane relief from 80,000 donors.

President Trump recorded a video message for the concert. He said in the video that the American people "came together as one" in the wake of a series of devastating hurricanes. He called the five former living presidents "some of America's finest public servants."  

"This wonderful effort reminds us that we truly are one nation under God, all unified by our values and devotion to one another," Mr. Trump said. 

Excited concertgoers started arriving around 3 p.m., CBS affiliate KBTX reports. Those standing in line told KBTX that seeing five living former presidents under one roof was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"We're big fans of both Georges," said one couple to KBTX.

"Obama is going to be amazing," one woman said. 

The One America Appeal initiative, launched Sept. 7 in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Florida, has distributed nearly $13 million to the Florida Disaster Fund, Rebuild Texas Fund, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, Juntos y Unidos por Puerto Rico and the Fund for the Virgin Islands, according to a news release from former President George H. W. Bush's office. The project is being managed through the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

The fundraising figure came ahead of the Saturday night concert One America Appeal hosted at Texas A&M to raise money for hurricane victims. 

"With damage estimates from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria topping $300 billion and requiring months and years of rebuilding ahead, we hope this strong start to the One America Appeal is just that – a start," David Jones, CEO of the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, said in a statement. "The former presidents want to thank each donor who, out of the goodness of their hearts, has given of themselves in such a selfless way to help their fellow Americans."

The five former presidents announced the initiative in an emotional video in September, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's destruction in Texas. But since then, Hurricane Irma ravaged Florida, and Hurricane Maria destroyed much of Puerto Rico.