The people and entities with the heavy hands always seem to get things done quickly and effectively.
It turns out that the heavy hands in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey were gentle extensions of open arms.
During the recent crisis recovery mode, the Houston Police Officers Union worked very closely with members of the nearby Trinity Lutheran Church across Houston Avenue at the intersection of Washington Avenue.
The story here is that the Union and the church set up an effective distribution center inside the church’s gym at 800 Washington Avenue. Many needed items were issued to the families of first responders.
And Lisa Hopmann, a volunteer leader at the church, well knows whose heavy hand was involved in this operation, which Union leaders readily identified as highly successful.
“God was extremely heavy-handed in this,” Hopmann told the Badge & Gun. “I was supposed to do other work at the church and it didn’t work out. I needed to pray on what to do.”
Those prayers were answered when the church’s chief financial officer, Ron Lacy, was checking things out after the storm and encountered one of HPOU’s prayer partners in the Prayer Room in the Breck Porter Building.
The upshot of the meeting and subsequent prayers was the instruction to the Union: Call us if you need us.
Soon that call was made.
Hopmann effectively coordinated a volunteer effort that included at least 100 of the approximately 450 members of the 138-year-old Lutheran church that has operated literally in the shadows of 61 Riesner – either HPD headquarters or Central Patrol headquarters – for almost 70 of those years.
The Union had become a clearing house for numerous donations of the “basics” needed by those who had lost their homes in the deep flood waters in Harvey’s wake. We’re talking blankets, cots, clothing such as socks and shirts, toiletries, diapers, etc.
The Godly move proved to be an effective partnership.
As HPOU President Ray Hunt put it in the September general membership meeting, “Over at Trinity Lutheran’s gym it’s like going into a Walmart but you don’t have to pay anything when you check out.”
Hopmann worked closely with HPOU vice presidents Tom Hayes and Joe Gamaldi, coordinating every need. Much of these “basics” were furnished the families of police officers and other first responders whose homes were ruined by the floods. She said Mike Mitchell of First Responders Benefit Trust drove his forklift over from the Trust’s warehouses on Lubbock on a regular basis to bring bottled water and other supplies needed for the distribution process.
She credited many others from Trinity for making the effort possible, starting with Ron Lacy but also including the pastor, Michael Dorn, of course, and staff members Mary Boigt and John Valdez, Trinity’s facilities manager whom Dorn told “to do whatever needs to be done.”
Valdez “dropped everything he was doing to make sure we had what we needed to make this happen,” the volunteer coordinator said. One thing was to follow through on a plan that made sure that all the clothing handled through Trinity Lutheran was new and not used.
When numerous articles of used clothing were brought in Valdez made sure it was taken to another church that specializes in distributing used clothing to various northside communities – the purview of Bethel Baptist Church at Tidwell and Airline.
“Otherwise we would have had bags stuffed up to our ears and not know what to do with them,” Hopmann explained.
She said she, her daughter Anita and another church family – Kim and Tammy Norman and their daughter Elle – were part of the initial volunteer work force at the George R. Brown Convention Center, the first major shelter set up for flood victims. “We worked alongside each other at the GRB at their distribution area.”
It was that experience that more than adequately prepared Hopmann for the daunting task in the Trinity Lutheran gym. She sent out emails to the church and got 30 to 40 volunteers by the Sunday afternoon the church’s effort was announced. Already there were volunteer groups helping about 10 church families who had lost their houses. These still-active groups help tear out ruined carpets and sheetrock in order to prepare for remodeling.
Hopmann wanted to extend special recognition to Andrew Lacy, Ron’s son, for volunteering for any duty at any hour during the operating hours of the supply chain. Andrew did an especially great job of cording high school-aged youths who were not in schools that were closed due to the flooded conditions.
“When they were not here,” she pointed out, “they were one of the crews cleaning houses.”
The church still had a gym-full of supplies by Sept. 7 but was seeing “a dwindling number of people in need,” Hopmann said. “So we thought our work was over.”
But it wasn’t. Two big supply trucks were due to come in by Saturday the 9th and Hopmann said she chanced to encounter some firefighters at Stanton’s City Bites who weren’t aware of the services provided in the gym.
That increased traffic and prompted the lawyer’s wife and mother of two daughters to vow that “We will be here as long as God needs us here.”