At 31-years-old, Department of Texas Post 560 Commander Charlie Powers has only been a Legionnaire for five years. Yet, even if unofficial, Hurricane Harvey has given the Marine Corps veteran a doctorate in logistics.
Located in the heart of Houston, his post has been a delivery hub for hot meals, emergency supplies and other assistance to thousands of storm and flood victims throughout the nation’s fourth largest city.
“We are centrally located enough to make the runs to people that were affected by the storms and are in isolated areas. So we came to them. It’s been a wild ride, almost 24/7 for the last eight days,” Powers said on Sept. 14. “We’ve cooked over a thousand meals. But it was really the Legionnaires, the Sons (of The American Legion) and the Auxiliary that did it. I just ran it out there.”
Relying on Facebook videos and Snapchat maps, Powers was able to leverage social media to communicate with his community and provide timely assistance.
“We closed the post early on Saturday (Aug. 26) and by the next morning, all hell had broken loose,” Powers recalled. “The gulley and bayou by my house had flooded and took half my neighborhood with it. Luckily we were spared.”
After opening the next day, the post provided meals to a nearby church that was being used as a storm shelter. “One shelter talks to another shelter and then another shelter. Suddenly you’re helping three shelters,” Texas 8th District Commander Richard Voorhies said. “We also started providing meals to the police union, where we are able to assist the first responders.”
Texas National Executive Committeeman Butch Sparks serves as the finance officer for Post 490 in South Houston, which was also strongly impacted by Harvey’s wrath.
“We got clobbered Saturday morning but couldn’t get the post open until Monday (Aug. 28),” Sparks said. “But supplies have been coming from Legion posts across the country. The first truck came from a post in Laughlin, Nevada. As soon as we get the supplies, they go to the people in the community who need them. We tell people to ‘take what you need but need what you take.’”
At Dorie E. Miller Post 817 in Beaumont the story is much the same. “We open our doors to the community a few times a week so they can pick up supplies,” Post 817 Commander Milton Chatham. “In between, we are stocking and re-stocking the shelves. Trucks have come in from the Department of Texas, other posts in the state and from all over the country. We have cleaning supplies, food, clothes, water, and pet supplies.”
American Legion Auxiliary Unit 817 member Dianne McDaniel has been helping the post’s relief efforts, despite some damage to her own home. “I had some ankle deep water in my den and my refrigerator went out, but I’ve been blessed compared to other people. I was glad to come here and help serve. My prayers go to those who are worse off.”
In addition to delivering supplies and providing shelter to those in need, Texas Department Commander John Hince said another challenge facing people in the region is acknowledging all of those who have helped. “There are so many Legionnaires in so many places doing so many things, that it’s hard to keep track.”