Officer Ramiro Garcia Jr. was off duty and travelling home from a wedding when one of the tires in his vehicle blew out. Officer Garcia was ejected and suffered severe injuries which paralyzed him from the neck down.
This was in 2013 and as we fast forward to 2016 we take a small glimpse at what being a part of the HPD family is really all about.
Dutton Comes Through
I remember sitting in the HPOU board room when President Ray Hunt told us that he had gone to visit Officer Garcia recently and how devastated he was after he had seen him. Ray advised the board that he would try to help in any way and see what could be done for our fellow officer and his family.
Here is when Jim Dutton and the folks at Texas Home Improvement stepped forward. You can call it a coincidence but I always believe that the Lord works in mysterious ways. It just so happened that Mr. Dutton, the host of a home improvement show on KTRH 740 AM weekends from 2 to 4 p.m., was looking for a new hero to help with his foundation Jim’s Heroes and the Overhaul for a Hero Project.
Mr. Dutton reached out to a friend at HPD who put him in touch with one of our board members, Jeff Wagner, currently serving as a Pasadena City Council member. Mr. Dutton’s last project was for a Dallas firefighter who had suffered severe burns in a fire he had responded to. (You can see the video footage of that project at THIPRO.COM).
At our next board meeting Jeff Wagner told us that Mr. Dutton had reached out to him and that he would be in need of our assistance with volunteers. I immediately told Jeff that I wanted to be a part of the project and would help in any way possible. Immediately Jeff put me in contact with Mr. Dutton and his executive producer, Brian Mcfarling.
I soon got out the word on the HPOU Facebook page and through emails to our members that we needed assistance with the Garcia project. Mr. Dutton needed manpower and we would provide it.
One of our Facebook posts caught the attention of Kevin Quinn at ABC 13 (KTRK). I met Mr. Dutton and Mr. Quinn at the Garcia home where we were interviewed and the story hit the news that night.
What occurred next was amazing! The Youcaring page that had been set up for the project had only raised about $60 but after the newscast that fundraising figure skyrocketed to over $9,000!
I cannot emphasize how overwhelming the support became after citizens saw the story that was aired. All of the negativity about police officers that the media has portrayed took background status. The citizens of Houston opened their arms and hearts to help a Houston police officer in need.
Mr. Dutton came to our board meeting in May and we were to start the demolition the following Tuesday. Mr. Dutton told me it would take three days as we had to take all the doors out and remove all the tile flooring. The home was going to be made to accommodate Officer Garcia and his family and make it more accessible for his wheelchair.
The focal point would be the master bathroom which needed to be made larger so it could be used by Officer Garcia, who had been receiving sponge baths since the accident. The rest of the home would be the object of a complete makeover. Mr. Dutton had secured a new roof, new flooring, new AC, new water heater, new siding, new coat of paint, new windows, and the list goes on and on.
I will have to admit that when that Tuesday morning came around I was a bit nervous about how many volunteers would show up. My fellow active and retired officers did not let me down. We had more than 25 volunteers show up and when we entered that home we entered with a mission.
Mr. Dutton had given us three days to tackle the demolition of the floors and doors and we had it done in one day. Let’s just say that some of us might have been harboring some frustrations and those floors and doors did not stand a chance. At this point Mr. Dutton asked if we wanted to tackle the landscaping since we had no one to commit to that part of our project. That’s when we became landscapers until the great guys at J Kru Services stepped in and did an amazing job at the home.
I and numerous other volunteers spent the next two weeks at the home without missing a day. We had an obligation to our brother in blue and made sure we could help in any way possible. I could relate to Officer Garcia so much because I worked night shift and still do. I know that you make sacrifices to spend time with family and I know that it could have been me in his situation.
The project was a remarkable work of volunteerism. So many individuals volunteered their services and helped us complete the project. I can tell you that we were still working on the home until the very last minutes before the unveiling and that it was a tremendous transformation.
I watched Mr. Dutton work on this project the whole time and I will tell you that he is a hero in my book. He gave so much and made sure that things were done right. He really showed that he cared and people like him are hard to find.
The day of the unveiling I was so nervous but also very emotional. My emotions overcame me when I saw the family and the looks on their faces from just seeing the exterior of the home. There were so many surprises for them inside the home that I could not imagine what they would think.
Mr. Dutton had secured a new refrigerator for the family just the day before and had tipped over as we were trying to get it into the home. Thankfully, there was a chair that had been perfectly placed and the new appliance landed right on top of it.
I was so happy to be able to give the family back its home. They loved it and couldn’t even recognize it. The entire home had been redone and made wheelchair accessible throughout.
This project was such a success and I would to thank certain people for all that they did.
Sgt. Matt Williams for all the help at the home and for helping me sell the raffle tickets.
Doug Griffith for always stepping up when I needed something and for helping at the home.
Mr. Rick Asplaugh with ACE Hardware, who brought out his rig and cooked for us every day.
Lisa Marino for all the phone calls and last minute requests.
Joe Gamaldi for helping with the rest of my last-minute requests and helping tear up some very well installed flooring.
A special thanks to Tom Murray who, although retired, worked harder than anyone out on the site. He was my go-to guy and stayed late with Mr. Dutton the night before the unveiling. I could not have ask for more.
Gainsborough Waste for stepping in when others wouldn’t and doing an amazing job.
J Kru again for donating the entire landscaping services and doing an amazing job.
Thanks to Jeff Wagner for all his help and the countless others who came to help a fellow officer in need. Some may say the brotherhood is dead but if you were to have witnessed some of the work performed at this home you would say otherwise.
I would like to name all the volunteers but I would definitely forget or miss someone and I rather just thank everyone as a whole. You made this project possible and the Garcia family thanks you!!
Thanks to all the contractors who donated their services to this project and made it possible. Special thanks to the HPOU and the Texas Police Trust for their donations.
Thanks, of course, to Mr. Dutton’s company DUWEST for the pluming and installing a new AC system donated by Carrier. Other generous participants were:
- America’s Choice Windows
- Victor’s Remodeling & Construction
- Valspar Paint
- Ace Hardware
- Guardian Roof Systems
- Bath and Kitchen Showplace
- Floor & Décor
- James Hardie Siding
- Zermeno Remodeling
- Moving by Design
- Secure Check LLC
- J Kru Landscaping
- Gainsborough Waste