New York retired investigator presents checks to Mrs. Perez, ATO But also brings two of God’s groups to help needy Harvey victims

Tom Kennedy

Another in a growing number of law enforcement groups stepped forward in mid-January to provide monetary support to Houston’s first responders affected by Hurricane Harvey, particularly Cheryl Perez, widow of Sgt. Steve Perez, and the Assist the Officer Foundation.

Robert Rodriguez represented the New York State Police Investigators Association’s Emergency Assistance Fund when he presented two checks on Jan. 18 at the Houston Police Officers Union.

Rodriguez presented a $2,500 check to Mrs. Perez and a $1,500 check to Sgt. Tom Hayes, HPOU’s third vice president and the chairman of ATO.

These presentations were but the latest in a multitude of generous donations from private citizens and law enforcement groups from all over the United States and Canada. Every dollar will go toward helping first responders – particularly Houston police officers – who suffered great damage to or total loss of their homes during Hurricane Harvey.

The retired investigators’ group raised the funds through fundraising activities such as golf tournaments, a cigar night and – coming up this spring – a bowling tournament.

Rodriguez said this was not the only answer to calls from people in need in this area in Harvey’s wake. He and 20 others from Long Island, New York spent one week in Houston working to rebuild three homes of people without the means to rehabilitate their living spaces.

He explained that his group’s work in the Greater Houston area (especially Porter) was a team effort coordinated through his church, Shelter Rock Church in Long Island, and Forward Edge International, a God’s mission-oriented organization.

Forward Edge coordinator Kay Moore told the Badge & Gun that her group works with local organizations like Rebuild South Texas to determine through a careful vetting process the people in greatest need.

“We partner with God,” Moore explained. “We work at transforming the lives of vulnerable children and disaster victims. When we go into Houston we do so with someone locally on the ground to figure out the projects. Team comes through Forward Edge.”

In this instance, Rebuild South Texas was the local support and Rodriguez’s volunteers the team members who spent a week rehabilitating three Porter area homes. Forward Edge works with building suppliers to acquire the needed materials through discounted prices or donations.

“The people we helped did not get enough from FEMA and had no means of putting their house back together,” Rodriguez said. “We fixed it so that they could come back into their homes.”

They found one house was “just a shell” that they converted back to a structure with new walls, sheet rock, flooring and a heating system. “We rewired the whole house,” the retired senior investigator said, “and she (the homeowner) moved back in yesterday.”

Moore pointed out that Rebuild South Texas and Forward Edge helps find the qualified installation specialists to get jobs done like the installation of hot water heaters, sinks and electricity.

Forward Edge provides rooms and meals for the duration of the stay.

Rodriguez took delight in the “double duty” that involved both his professional organization of retired investigators who contributed to the Perez family and ATO as well as the volunteers from his church who helped the less fortunate Harvey victims.

He was prompted to say the highlight of his stay was “the hospitality of the Houston Police Department and meeting the wife (of Sgt. Perez) and knowing you’re doing something for a first responder.

“Our motto is ‘Helping Those who Help Others.’ Everybody expects first responders to help them. They don’t realize that they (first responders) go through the same hardships as everybody else.”

His Long Island church as three campuses on Long Island – Manhasset, Syosett and Westbury – each of which supplied volunteers for the Houston mission trip.

Moore said Forward Edge, headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, was formed in 1983 to send volunteers all over the world – which includes Houston and Porter.

“We come under the authority of God,” she said. “We work through local churches and pastors and have gone to serve in place like Nicaragua, Kenya, Puerto Rico and Mexico.”

The ravages of Harvey meant a domestic mission trip to Houston, where Moore, Rodriguez and the team of volunteers responded to the needs of an elderly Patton Village woman “living in her shed since Aug. 25.

“We got her into her house,” Moore said. “It’s not finished but she has a bedroom, a bathroom and somewhat of a functioning cooking space, a microwave or a hotplate. A lot of volunteers come through, without a doubt. Miss Bonnie is back into her house.”

She said through this strong volunteer service “we get a front row seat to see how the Lord enters the lives of the people we serve. We are willing to do this with total strangers. We respond to God’s call and really serve those in our communities. We do not have to leave the country. We feel it’s a God opportunity to serve in our neighborhoods at home.

“We want to be strong in the relation piece and give people hope who have been devastated. We support them through prayer. We come and listen and take time to develop a relational piece.”