Kenny Beauvais was in a shuttered department store 12 years ago in Shreveport, sorting through building-sized stacks of clothes people had donated for Hurricane Katrina victims. There were few volunteers, little direction and even less organization to the earnest relief effort.
“I was the only one sorting clothes,” Kenny said, looking back at the 2005 experience. “Later, I found out all the clothes went to a landfill.”
Twelve years later, the horrific flooding and devastation brought on by Hurricane Harvey moved Kenny to action. But, the business owner and lay leader at Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Shreveport was determined there would be no repeat of the ill-fated Katrina effort.
“Really, it’s not rocket surgery,” said Kenny, who owns HDW, Inc., a trucking company with locations in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. “It’s basic stuff, logistics we do every day. My business is moving stuff from Point A to Point B.”
HDW recently purchased a new business, and Kenny was sending empty tractor-trailers to the Houston location to move stock to the Marshall location. The logistics started to make sense.
“I reached out to my pastor at Broadmoor and asked, ‘Will you sign up to support this crazy idea?’” Kenny said. “I contacted people in the real estate business to find a warehouse to store supplies until we could get them loaded and off to the people who need them.”
The effort, dubbed Hope for Houston Now, is made possible because of the connections within the United Methodist Church. On the donating end, Broadmoor in Shreveport is hosting the website and administration of the effort. On the receiving end, Kenny and Broadmoor are working through St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston, who will receive donated goods from Broadmoor via an HDW 18-wheeler. From there, St. Luke’s handles the distribution to ensure everything gets where it is needed.
“The church is very connectional,” Kenny said. “It was really critical for me to find an organization that could handle everything on both ends.”
This is no willy-nilly relief plan. The list of needed items is short and specific - bottled water, diapers, wipes, formula, feminine hygiene products, box fans, square point shovels, buckets, floor scrapers and gloves. Each pallet is loaded with quantities of one item until it is 4 feet tall. Then the pallet and goods are shrink wrapped and readied for loading.
“It looks like our first full truck will roll Saturday morning,” Kenny said.
If all goes well, Kenny hopes people in the Shreveport area will continue to donate items and money to load more trucks to provide relief.
“You can see that people are grateful in their giving,” he said. “They will pull up to the warehouse and say, ‘This is all I could fit in my car,’ and they’ll have a case of water and a case of diapers. But, we know that is what is needed, so it won’t be wasted.”
As for those clothes relegated to a landfill a dozen years ago, Kenny agrees that, perhaps they weren’t wasted, that they were the seed that grew into the Hope for Houston Now effort.
“Yeah, I like that,” Kenny laughed. “We’re going with that!”