About four years ago the HPOU recognized the success of a unique non-profit organization dedicated to supplying new underwear to underprivileged school children in the Greater Houston area.
The Union put some money where the need was.
Today, Undies for Everyone has broadened its commitment in all directions. What once was directed at Houston students has now extended south to Rockport, east to Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange and north to Dallas, no, make that Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
To be frank, the Houston-based crusade has extended to the corners of the nation – to California and Florida in response to natural disasters and greater needs.
Rabbi Weiss, founder and executive director of the program, reminded the Badge & Gun that the first year of the program, which was confined to students in the Houston Independent School District, Undies for Everyone handed out 12,000 of underwear. That was in 2012.
The overall effort and the money raised has dramatically increased over the past six years. Last year’s flood greatly increased the overall needs of needy students.
“From Sept. 1, 2017 and now we have given out 1.75 million pair,” Rabbi Weiss said.
“Last year the school nurses gave out 220,000 individual pairs. We served 12 school districts in Houston and the surrounding areas. This year we’ve added the Pasadena ISD and also the Beaumont, West Orange and Port Arthur school districts.
“We gave all the way down to Rockport and Victoria and all the way up to Dallas. Flood victims evacuated up there. We also gave in Florida for Hurricane Erma and for the California fire. And we’re still trying to get underwear to Puerto Rico.”
Weiss made clear just how strong Houston is and always has been.
“I think that the fact that it’s increased so much that the need is so enormous,” she said. “It’s just crazy. We’re just going to keep on going. In 2019 we’re opening in Milwaukee.
“We decided on a kind of franchise kind of a deal for people who want to open franchise affiliates in their cities. It’s a lot of work but they are coming to us.”
In Houston, Rabbi Weiss is one of three part-timers who work closely with three full-time employees. Their warehouse office is located at 4019 S. Braeswood at Stella Link. “We are totally looking for volunteers,” she said. “We’re packing all the time during the summer and weekends. Go to undiesforeveryone.org.”
She told a story that stressed the real unremembered need that exists in times of crisis like Hurricane Harvey and the resulting floods. “I think that when my husband and I went down to the George R. Brown after the storm we were helping do whatever,” Weiss recounted. “We were sorting men’s clothing. Literally the piles were taller than us.
“Nobody stopped at Target to get underwear. Where’s the underwear? Where’s the underwear? It’s a basic necessity. But the vast amount of people don’t think about it.”
Support for Undies for Everyone comes from grants, corporate donations and those from individuals and concerned groups.
Consider the Houston Police Officers Union to be in the latter category. Four years ago then HPOU 2nd Vice President Joe Gamaldi led the charge to donate $2,000. This year, now-President Gamaldi suggested that the amount be increased to $5,000 and the HPOU Board of Directors aptly responded.
The day of the interview, Weiss had the check in her hand and a smile on her face.
Gamaldi was thrilled with the organization’s success rate and virtually repeated what he said the first year of HPOU’s contribution: “We hope HPOU’s contribution will help this great organization reach that goal and exceed it!”