In the weeks following the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, and wild fires in the West, California Legionnaires have rallied local backing across three districts and six posts to close 1,400 miles and physically bring help.
Just after hurricane Harvey, Hollywood Post 43 member Andre Andrews watched a video of Houston Texas Post 560 Commander Charlie Powers. He was motivated to coordinate donations, which included over 1,000 pounds of goods.
“The American Legion is family to me; it gives me purpose,” Andrews said. “That feeling I had for my family here, I had the same feeling for that guy in Texas. So I decided to take matters into my own hands to help.”
Local companies wanted to help so he asked around and got a great response from Home Depot and Sirreel Production Rentals for donations of tools and gear for the trip.
Andrews was joined by fellow Post 43 member Charles Chavez. They packed their bags and got on the road.
They stopped at five Legion posts along the way, but it was in Houston where they had the greatest impact. They attended a meeting at Post 560; its first one since the storm. “We've started to settle back into normal at the post,” Powers said. “The response of the Legion has been fantastic.”
The storm hit hard, but it did not kill the spirit of mutual helpfulness that defines The American Legion. “I met so many amazing people with heartbreaking stories that will change my life forever,” Andrews said. “I’ve never seen or witnessed so much destruction in my life.”
Another group from southern California filled a box truck with 10,000 pounds of supplies and drove it to a hurricane relief distribution center in La Marque, Texas. Jere Romano, commander of Pacific Palisades Post 283 and 24th District commander, along with Beau Espeso of Santa Monica Post 123 and Eric Giesler, a Boy Scout parent from Post 223, collected donations from sites in the communities their Legion posts serve. The volume donated was too much for a post in Texas to handle so Post 283 2nd Vice Commander Noe Aguirre reached out to his family in Houston who coordinated with the distribution center that could handle the truckload of supplies.
When they got to Texas, Romano said it was good they were able to coordinate with the Le Marque distribution center because the supplies were closer to those who needed it the most. The volunteers were happy with the amount of kids clothes donated because they had been receiving requests but didn’t have any.
“The outpouring of love that we’ve gotten from all over the country is amazing,” Powers said. “These guys are the embodiment of what it means to be Legionnaires, and I’ve never been more proud to be a member of this organization in my life."