In today’s climate of aggressive anti-police sentiment, it’s extremely important to recognize those in the community who stand behind, honor and show their appreciation to our brothers and sisters in blue.
When the Houston Law Enforcement Officers Family Support Unit (HLEOFSU) received a call to arrange and host the hospitality rooms for the HPD Command Staff, VIPs and Honor Guards from across the country prior to the funeral for Sgt. Steve Perez, we reached out to the Houston Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association to partner with us on this project.
The HLEOFSU and HCPAAA have a history of partnering and working well together on several projects. I then contacted the HPOU, which gladly provided a donation and assistance as well.
Now it was time to pool our resources from the community to cover the bulk of the cost for food and beverages for 200 people. Family Support Unit President Jeanete Einkauf rose to the challenge and contacted Mike Willis, the assistant manager of the H-E-B Jersey Village store. He asked, “What all do you need?”
Jeanette read off an exhaustive list of items that were needed. H-E-B’s response was “Is that all?”
Here is where the story actually begins. You see, for this store and its staff, assisting us became a labor of love. Their own produce manager, Joey McGee, lives across the street from the Perez family. He was the last person to see Sgt. Perez alive as they waved to each other from their driveways as they both headed off to work on that tragic day that would take the life of Sgt. Perez.
In the days ahead, McGee also assisted the officers assigned to duty in front of the Perez home by providing them with food and the use of facilities.
Assistant Manager Willis worked closely with Jeanette to meet all of our needs. And her list was lengthy. We still chuckle when we recall her asking them if they could provide 300 of the small bottle of water in place of the large. Mike’s reply: “We are in the middle of hurricane recovery but we will see what we can do.”
And yes, they came through for us on that special request as well.
H-E-B not only provided us with trays and trays of food, desserts, water, soft drinks, juices and coffee, its management also sent five of its employees the help unload – Joey McGee, Hillary Cortez, Yadi Osario, Kassy Saldago and Shirley Williams. These special people also joined the volunteers from HCPAAA and the HLEOFSU in setting up, serving and cleaning up. They stayed for the ceremony that took place outside the church, a solemn and first-time event for them all.
Seems as though this is more than enough to say thank you for. However, months afterwards I learned that these five dedicated employees arrived to work by 3 a.m. that morning to prepare the food so that nothing provided was left over from the night before.
How do we show our appreciation and say thank you to the store and staff for their dedication and generosity?
It’s simple: you do it in a big way! On Wednesday, Feb. 28, members of HPD, HCPAAA, HPOU and the HLEOSFU gathered together at the HEB Jersey Village store to do just that.
HPOU President Joe Gamaldi represented the Union, Jeanette Einkauf the HCPAAA and I was there on behalf of the HLEOFSU. The support from HPD was so great that I will not list everyone for fear of missing someone.
In attendance were four assistant chiefs: Wendy Baimbridge, Lori Bender, Pete Lopez and Henry Gaw. The chiefs also were accompanied by several captains, lieutenants and members of Public Affairs, including Deputy Director Regina Woolfolk.
You could see the look of disbelief and surprise on the faces of the staff of H-E-B as one officer after the other walked in the store. Needless to say, they were touched and overwhelmed by this show of support. Together the HPOU and the HLEOFSU presented a plaque to the store, which was accepted by Willis. The five employees – McGee, Cortez, Osario, Saldago and Williams – all received a framed certificate of appreciation and a gift from the HCPAAA. They also each received a Harvey fundraiser t-shirt from the HLEOFSU.
There was also a special note of thanks to Store Manager Trevor Spradlin, who arranged for us to be at the store and allowed his team to enjoy the spotlight.
Thank you to the staff and management of H-E-B. We are honored to have your support.
Schmauss is the chaplain of the Houston Law Enforcement Officers Family Support Unit (HLEOFSU).