ATO and Buffalo Bayou Brewery develop productive community team in Lovings benefit, bound to one day strike again for good

Tom Kennedy, Editor
Officer Cedell Lovings accepts the hugs and well wishes from one of his countless fellow officers and well wishers at the Feb. 2 fundraiser at Buffalo Bayou Brewery.

Houstonians love Houston’s finest! There has been ample proof of this adage the past few years in neighborhoods all around the Bayou City.

Yet another example unfolded Feb. 2 during the highly successful fundraiser for Officer Cedell

Lovings, who is recovering from a serious wound in the line of duty.

Lovings’ fellow officers, led by Officer Josue Villa, also from Narcotics, needed a corporate partner in the fundraising venture and the great folks at Buffalo Bayou Brewery in the HPOU neighborhood responded generously and effectively enough to help raise $70,000!

It became a team effort beginning with Villa and Assist the Officer Foundation. And what a winning team it was. It was so successful that the leadership participants vowed to possibly team up again one of these days when the need arises.

What a team effort!

Buffalo Bayou Brewery crew at the HPOU: Left to right, Officer Josue Villa, Brewery crew members Katie Barrett (Events Coordinator, Arash Kharat (Chef) and Damien Franco (Marketing Manager), pictured with HPOU President Joe Gamaldi. Photo by Gary Hicks

Buffalo Bayou events coordinator Katie Barrett talked about the team and the fun.

“I got to take it to the goal line from the five-yard line,” Barrett said with her football analogy. “We got involved with ATO and found a way to do something unique.

“We had vendors donate product to reduce the cost. We all came up with a really creative idea that allowed for a large-scale event. We put up tents and set up a satellite bar.

“We developed a really great relationship with ATO. We had the auction items set up and closed Henderson Street to accommodate what proved to be a huge crowd.”

Barrett’s reference to “ATO” as opposed to “that group called Assist the Officer” was evidence that the organization known for helping officers in need in times of physical/fiscal crises has become a well-known fixture and familiar acronym in the community.

This community sponsor was right down Washington Avenue from State Street, north on Taylor to 2101 Summer Street, where the three-story brewery/eatery also provides one of the great views of the city’s downtown skyline.

This fantastic aerial shot of the Lovings fundraiser at Buffalo Bayou Brewery shows the large crowd under clear skies and generous outpouring of love for Lovings.

For a $100 contribution, a “VIP” at the Lovings event was allowed to take in that view and enjoy benefits such as an enhanced selection of beer and barbecue, Barrett explained.

And, oh the barbecue!

Executive Chef Arash Kharat worked his staff all night to prepare enough barbecue for the more than 1,000 people who showed up under sunny February skies to help the cause by buying tickets, making contributions and bidding on auctions for such prizes as sports memorabilia and gift certificates.

ATO and Buffalo Bayou worked together and – especially with Kharat’s help – succeeded in getting product donated by 44 Farms (the meat) and Ben E. Keith (the sides such as beans and potato salad).

Marketing manager Damien Franco delighted in touting Kharat’s talents on the barbecue grill. “Chef Kharat hails from Blood Brother’s BBQ and Beaver’s before coming on board as our executive chef,” Franco said.

And doesn’t it say in the Texas Constitution that Texas barbecue has a special “go-with.”

Franco elaborated.

Brewed on the spot at this facility, which has been open since last November are the following:

  • 1836. This beer is a tribute to the Victory malt. Smooth and crisp at the same time. In 1836, the battlecry, “Remember the Alamo” inspired the forces of Sam Houston to defeat a much larger force led by Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto and shortly afterward, Texas won her independence.
  • Gingerbread Stout. One of our seasonal offerings. One of our more creative beers.
  • German Chocolate Cake. No, not the pecan-enriched dessert treat. This is another Buffalo Bayou creation you can’t find to drink anywhere else.
The brewery’s chef, Arash Kharat and his staff prepared barbecue for more than 1,000 people.

To iron out the details for what proved to be a sensational event would take several days. Not so, Barrett explained. She said due to the fact so many people wanted to pitch in and help, it only required “three or four hours ahead of the event,” which began about 1 p.m. and lasted until 5 p.m.

Gratitude, Respect

“We had some of the people come over from the Be Fit Gym because of their connection with Officer Lovings,” she explained.

Franco’s social media marketing and promotion also helped to increase the turnout.

He and Barrett cited another, more significant reason why the community joined HPD officers to turn out to support Officer Lovings.

“Gratitude is one of our core values,” Barrett explained, “and we like to show gratitude for those who help us. It’s amazing to be a part of this community that supports each other and reaches out to us to share their network.”

The Houston Police Officers Union honored Barrett, Franco and Chef Kharat for their hospitality and hard work with special recognition in the Union’s March general membership meeting.

Judging from the success of this great new partnership, it won’t be the last time this mighty team from the Union and the community gets together to do good things.