Amidst the destruction of Harvey, a marathon of human kindness has sprung up from the local American Legion.
On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 29, as the rain from Hurricane Harvey continued to tear through Houston, the commander of American Legion Post 560 in Garden Oaks, Charlie Powers, put out a call for volunteers to help feed evacuees and first responders working through the storm. For four days, 40 veterans lent a hand in the post’s kitchen starting at 7 am and wrapping at 10 each night.
Most of the grocery stores in Houston were closed in those dark days, and the few that were open offered little in the way of staples. Shelves were bare. Over the the next days, the veterans manged to serve more than 1,000 pounds of food, much of it donated from the inventories of their own families. It was the famous children’s story, “Stone Soup,” in real life.
The Legionnaires put our locals first. They delivered hot meals twice a day to the smaller shelters and churches in the area. There were nearly 200 evacuees in the Community of Faith Church located at 1024 Pinemont Dr.
“I took all sorts of photos,” said Commander Powers. “I took shots of us loading trucks, working in the kitchen and so on. I could shoot the legionnaires all day long, but I would not take photos of the evacuees themselves. These are people who lost everything, and we decided to allow them their dignity in this unfortunate situation.”
Who were the people in the shelters and how were their spirits?
“How were their spirits?” he continued. “These are homeless people who are not homeless because they made bad choices, or similar reasons. They are regular Houstonians many of whom have rent or mortgage due but have no homes to go with the financial responsibility. They are very muted. Very quiet. I would have to say, they are in shock,” Powers explained.
American Legion Post 560 stepped in early to help, because someone had to.
“We filled a gap, a need. We served the smaller places until the larger, helping agencies could step in,” said Powers. “Now, they have.”
Smaller shelters and churches are now being served by the bigger agencies that have sprung up in the sunshine following the storm. However, for four days, Post 560 played a critical role in keeping our traumatized neighbors fed.
“It’s not over; we are not done. Now, we are in the rebuilding stage,” Powers continued. “At the post, we accepting donations of gift cards, particularly Home Depot and Lowe’s gift cards. We are working on a tiered system. First, we are taking care of our members and veterans who have damaged homes, then the locals who have suffered the same.”
Powers has taken calls from American Legion Posts from all over the country who have offered help and donations. The legionnaire community remains strong in its support of its Houston brothers and sisters.
“It’s a funny thing,” Powers said. At the post, we decided to leave the American flag up through the storm. And just like the National Anthem says, on the first day after the storm, ‘at the dawn’s early light, our flag was still there.’
“That’s Houston, and that’s America,” the veteran concluded with a sparkle in his eye.