September 4, 2017
On Sunday afternoon when Martin Diaz De Leon pulled his pick-up truck, trailer in tow, into the parking lot of Northwest Assistance Ministries (NAM) the sun shone brightly against a blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds. It was hard to believe that less than a week before the sky had been filled with ominous gray clouds that unleashed a torrential rainfall, ravaging the city.
He had driven more than 900 miles from Vidalia, Georgia to Houston, trailer loaded down with cases of bottled water, boxes of diapers, toiletries, clothing, over-the-counter medications and shelf-stable foods, to deliver much-needed supplies to victims of Hurricane Harvey, which dropped an unprecedented amount of rain on Houston and the surrounding areas.
Diaz De Leon, a Texas native from Rockport, has lived in Georgia since his wife, Morgan, retired from the Army; but when he saw the destruction Harvey wreaked along the Texas gulf coast, he felt compelled to take action.
“I started going around to different businesses, asking if they would take up collections that we could send to help out.” said Diaz De Leon. “There were several that wanted to help – Phillips Pharmacy, Doos by Mindy, the Kiwanis Club of Vidalia provided fiscal support, Lyons First United Methodist Church, and Sacred Heart Catholic Church.”
A couple of businesses, he said, even had to slow down their operations because they were getting so many donations. “At Phillips Pharmacy there were so many boxes of donations in the back area where the pharmacists dispense medications that it was difficult to move around,” he laughed. “It was completely packed!”
Then came the question of where to send the donations. “Of course I thought of Rockport first; it’s my hometown and they got hit hard.” He made calls to various shelters around Rockport; when he was told they were no longer taking donations, he began calling shelters in other small coastal towns. “I just thought the smaller towns might need [the donations] more than a big city.”
Finally, after receiving the same response from shelters in each town, he turned to Houston and was told about NAM by a friend in the Houston area. “I just wanted to know that [the supplies] were going to the people who really needed them,” he said.
Diaz De Leon says they are still collecting supplies and hope to have a large truckload soon. He said he doesn’t know yet where the supplies will go, just that he wants them to go wherever they are needed most.
Northwest Assistance Ministries is a non-profit, community-based social service agency that strives to meet basic human needs through Neighbors Helping Neighbors. NAM provides assistance in areas such as food, shelter, health, education and domestic violence awareness and intervention. During its last fiscal year, NAM touched the lives of more than 114,000 people through its many programs and services.