Houston Steps Up to the Plate
By Michael McHugh
Special to Houston Community Newspapers Pearland and Friendswood Journal
Hurricane Katrina may have come and gone, but she will most definitely have a lasting effect on the lives she touched, including mine.
Imagine waking up one morning, your whole world changed forever. Life as you knew it would never be the same.
No home, no food, no basic needs. Only the clothes on your back. Then imagine sitting out in the hot sun for days on end, feeling hopeless, hoping anyone would lend you a hand, and rescue you from what seems like the end of the world.
Many of us sat in our safe homes and watched the horror unfold on television. It was unimaginable for me to believe that something like this could happen in the country I live in. These were my neighbors. They were moms and dads, families, and kids like me.
As the rescue missions began, I knew I had to do something, I just didnt know what. The people affected by this storm were no different than me except that I got to go to sleep at night in my comfortable bed. They got to sleep on roof tops, litter in the streets or in overcrowded shelters. I got to eat three meals a day. Many of them didnt see a meal for three days. When I was hot, I drank cold water. When they were hot, they only dreamed of having cold water.
As the storm victims found their way to Houston, the call came for volunteers, so I went out to the George R. Brown Convention Center to see what I could do to help. Thats where I met a man named Willie Felton of Sugar Land, Texas. Willie also came out to the convention center to help, bringing bags of new sandals and slippers for the people who had no shoes. That morning he brought about 80 pairs. The night before, he had done the same thing at the Astrodome.
As the buses rolled in and unloaded, Willie tried to give shoes to everyone who needed them. There were so many in need and he couldnt keep up with it all. We kind of looked at each other, and before I knew it, I was helping Willie hand out the shoes. As people got off the bus, many were sunburned, dazed and wearing muddy clothes. There were little kids with bare muddy feet, grown ups whose feet were swollen and soiled, and the elderly who could barely walk. And there was Willie Felton, making sure they at least had a pair of shoes.
I will never forget Willie, and I will never forget the faces of the scared children who clung to their parents, the old and the young, all happy to have a clean place to sleep, a bottle of cold water, a hot meal, and grateful to the Houstonians who came out to help.
The Houston Aeros along with the Rockets, Comets and KPRC are also doing their part to help raise money and donations for the victims of Katrina. Hopefest will be from Tuesday-Thursday at Toyota Center. If you would like to help, please call 713-758-7507 or drop off your donations at the Toyota Center at Polk and LaBranch.
I am proud of my community and all the volunteers like Willie who came out to lend a hand or share a smile. This event has taken an emotional toll on so many, and they will need our help for a long time.
Please contact the Red Cross at www.redcross.org
or call 1-800-Help-Now if you would like to make a donation or volunteer. Our neighbors need your help.