HPD family support group’s successful T-shirt sales helped Officers and families in greatest need in Harvey’s wake

Tom Kennedy

That family support group with the long name has added to its already long list of helping hands extended to HPD officers who suffered serious losses in Hurricane Harvey while steadfastly staying on duty to help Houstonians.

At the Feb. 1 HPOU general membership meeting representatives of the Houston Law Enforcement Officers Family Support Unit presented $1,253 to HPD officers deemed by Assist the Officer to have suffered the greatest personal property losses in Harvey’s flood waters. A total of 10 officers received checks, including four at the meeting.

That wasn’t all. The group received donations amounting to $5,550 that was “station-specific” to the South Gessner Division under Capt. Craig Bellamy. The station personnel was recognized for its exceptional non-stop work ethic in the Harvey aftermath.

The determination of this family-oriented organization reached a fever pitch in the aftermath of Harvey when it became apparent that HPD officers were in a uniquely hazardous and duty-bound situation, often going days without food and a change of clothing.

Spearheaded by President Jennifer Bates, the HLEOFSU dedicated its volunteer time to meals, boots and money.

Bates told the story.

“We knew there were officers out there helping the citizens of Houston while their own families and homes were deeply affected. We wanted to help out. During the hurricane we asked, ‘What can we do?’

“Immediately after the hurricane we were able to bring hot meals to the Union on three different occasions – a total of 700 meals over three or four days.

“We made another connection with Justin Boots. They donated a whole shipment of finer quality leather all-weather boots. Justin donated them to law enforcement. There were three Suburban-fulls, or 600 pair.”

Bates and the group also responded to two very thoughtful and generous donations, one from a Dallas Police group and another from the Germantown, Tennessee PD. Dallas assembled Care packages containing basic toiletries such as tooth brushes, deodorant and even diapers – all essential needs that many law enforcement families lost in flood waters. Germantown PD delivered trailer loads of furniture, appliances, water, diapers and miscellaneous supplies.

“These were Dallas police officers who followed our organization on Facebook,” she explained. “They organized it and trailered it down within a week after the hurricane hit.”

The Germantown delivery was so elaborate that the Bates group drafted HPD cadets to unload the trailers.

HPD officers – and other Greater Houston area law enforcement personnel – captured the appreciation and imagination of the nation with their unselfish dedication to 12-hour shifts to save Houstonians of all ethnicities, social-economic status and age groups.

All of these long duty hours were unfurling while their families and homes were themselves cooping with flood waters and homes that were virtually declared disaster areas.

Quickly the prime goal of the Bates group became fundraising for officers most severely affected.

The sale of t-shirts took over the highest priority. Great partnerships emerged!

“We partnered with Dana Tyson of Sunny 99.1 to raise the money we gave the officers,” Bates recounted. “We promoted the shirts on radio all week and were on the air at the station on Friday.”

Bates and the volunteers appeared in other locations to sell the shirts. The black shirt said “Houston Strong,” the gray one “Texas and LEO (law enforcement officers) Strong.”

Bates said her group worked with Robert Garcia of Lone Star Branding to print the T-shirts, some of which were sold online and hand-delivered to the buyers.

Officers receiving checks were Matt Fowler, Eddie Rodriguez, Tim Whitaker, Kimberly King, Charles Ballard,

Derrick Watson, Matt Williams, Davis Vinton, Kim Tae and Sgt. Mauricio Medina. These officers were deemed to be the ones whose homes suffered the most damage of all HPD personnel.

Bates, the wife of Senior Police Officer Michael Bates of the SRG, said, “We would have loved to have helped more officers. $17,000 is not a bad number. But there were so many officers that needed the help. We went with those who needed the help the most. You do what you can with what you got.”