Over the past five years TMF’s Houston area veterans and inspired civilians have joined a movement dedicated to giving back to the Bayou City by creating thriving communities and developing character in future generations. So when Hurricane Harvey made landfall, TMF Spartans across the community met the challenge without question, embodying the pride, leadership, and character that the “If Not Me, Then Who…” mantra represents.
To avoid the storm, TMF Central Region Manager, Cress Clippard and TMF Ambassadors, Allen Devers and Machelle Smith stayed outside the city; but after a few days of watching all the people in trouble on TV and social media, they were determined to make their way back to Houston to get their hands dirty. Cress recalls, "As the crisis in Houston worsened, my friends and I got increasingly less comfortable being separated from a situation where we knew we could help."
After the storm, so many generous people stepped forward to ask how to help. TMF established a system for identifying the greatest needs of the population, and employed able-bodied volunteers in a meaningful way to support those needs.
“There were many veterans and other inspired citizens out in the city doing good work, but between the veteran organizations, nobody was coordinating their efforts. Using the system that the Combined Arms Center already had in place, we organized and tasked our volunteers and service organizations like we would a military operation.”
These operations became known as "Task Force Bayou Thunder." Houston area veteran service organizations TMF, Lone Star Veterans Association and Combined Arms teamed up by taking all the grassroots elements of support coming to the city and efficiently deploying them for recovery and relief efforts.
The response of volunteers and first responders has been incredible. Multiple individuals spent their day removing debris and damaged furniture during the clean-up and "mucking-out" efforts in League City, a suburb of Houston. Determined high school students from Energy Institute, who went through TMF's Character Does Matter program, hosted a blood drive to garner enough units to save over 100 lives.
Strangers--now an integral part of the TMF community--packed up their cars with materials and drove from as far as Indiana and Missouri to show kindness and support for those in need. Matthew Marshall, a U.S. Army Veteran, who packed up his car from Long Beach, California reflects,
“When I see people’s lives being taken in a flood and people wading through water - I can’t just sit on a couch and watch that happen - I have to get my feet wet; I have to get my hands dirty. I loaded up with close to $2,000 worth of products, medical supplies, water, and diapers and drove for the next 24 hours until I got to Houston.”
Above all, those affected by Hurricane Harvey displayed perseverance and resiliency, even while suffering tremendous loss. Take Jim Conley, Navy Veteran and TMF Ambassador who said, “You can’t quit, you have to move forward. I lost my apartment, furniture and car. But all my memories from my kids, my grandson, my time in the Navy and the Houston Police Department were safe – everything that meant something to me was safe, so I was good. I’ll be out in a week or two to volunteer for those who really need it.”
All of these individuals, the volunteers, veterans, community members, and those affected, exemplify the strength of America’s national character and are representing what it means to live by the mantra "If Not Me, Then Who..."
We want our Houston teammates to know that we stand alongside them, #HoustonStrong, not just now in their immediate time of need; but also for years to come, sustaining long-term impact to strengthen and unify the community.