An exciting, sun-drenched Feb. 1 event at Buffalo Bayou Brewery, literally down the street from the HPOU, raised $70,000 for Narcotics Officer Cedell Lovings, who is still recovering from wounds suffered in the line of duty.
Basically, HPD and the surrounding community stepped forward to buy VIP tickets, bid in silent auctions and just flat donate funds.
A dedicated amount of volunteer teamwork contributed to this great success story, which began with Lovings’ Narc colleagues wanting to help out a brother in blue.
One of the event’s highlights was the appearance of Police Chief Art Acevedo, who spoke to all those present to assure Lovings and his family that he “was a victim” entitled to every benefit the department can provide.
Fellow Narc Josue Villa once again used his organizational talents to coordinate the fundraiser with the help of many other Lovings colleagues. Villa paid special tribute to Buffalo Bayou Brewery.
“From our first meeting,” he explained, “we spoke and they were all in. We had just walked in the door and they started flowing with ideas. We needed for them to do everything it takes and they did it.”
The first example: noted Buffalo Bayou barbecue chef Arash Kharat got on the phone during that first conversation and immediately got meat donated by one of the city’s high-grade meat suppliers, 44 Farms.
Forty-four Farms went on to supply all the brisket, chicken and sausage needed for the event, which drew so many attendees that HPD wound up closing off Henderson Street to accommodate the ever-flowing crowd. Assist the Officer Foundation provided two 20-by-20-foot tents to shade everyone from Houston’s early-winter Saturday sunlight.
Villa also had heavy praise for Buffalo Bayou’s event coordinator, Katie Barrett, who came up with the idea for a VIP Experience. In return for a $100 donation, the donor received freshly brewed craft beer and all the barbecue he or she could eat in the comfort of brewery’s rooftop lounge. The facility at 2101 Summer Street parallel to Washington and near Sawyer has perhaps the most exciting westside view of downtown.
“The VIP lounge raised at least $10,000 by itself,” Villa said, still excited about what the fundraiser was able to do for Lovings and his wife/caregiver Candace. “He was actually there and was excited to hear the chief express the department’s support.”
Lovings’ injuries have rendered him unable to walk – although Villa told the Badge & Gun he believes that will be a temporary condition.
Although he might be considered “medically retired,” Lovings is going through enough physical therapy to show, according to Villa, “he’s going to be able to walk again and wants to come back on duty. That’s his overall goal. He goes to physical therapy and they often have to tell him to stop. He’s got that mentality. He will walk again. He is passing everybody’s expectations. Candace is always by his side to care for him.”
As always, Alan Helfman of River Oaks Chrysler Jeep, served as auctioneer, donating his usual wide array of sports memorabilia to the cause.
The appearance of SWAT and the Bearcat vehicle, as well as an HPD helicopter, drew the attention of most of the neighborhood between Sawyer and the Union’s State Street locale. Many of these citizens made donations as they delightfully posed with the Bearcat. Lovings also served with SWAT in some of the events.
A Great Team Effort
Villa said that “people came in and donated a bunch of memorabilia, gift certificates and guns. We love to have guns up for auction because they bring in a lot.”
Villa has become a leader in the hard-working volunteer efforts to raise funds for officers in need. This was his third such event, having taken the lead to raise $35,000 for Officer Benny Rivera about a week and a half before Rivera died of cancer last fall. When he and fellow Narcs learned that the five-year-old son of Sgt. Mike Perales (Narcotics K-9 Unit) had leukemia, they went into the fundraising mode for the second time, amassing a $50,000 return.
Villa was effusive in his praise of all the teammates who helped in these and the Lovings fundraisers. ATO (especially Tom Hayes and Gabriela Gregory) helped in the coordination and follow-up support for Lovings. Then came Commander Bill Staney and Villa’s fellow Narcs, Tony Villa, Oscar Pardo, Rick Perez, Frank Medina, Mauricio Valle and Luis Valle.
“Narcotics really stepped up big-time,” Villa said. “He (Lovings) is one of our own. We worked alongside him in pretty dangerous – actually very dangerous – situations. We all work together. We know that he was a victim of what happened.”