As he watched Tropical Depression Imelda drop what seemed like never-ending rain on Crosby, Texas, and the surrounding areas, Legionnaire Gary Alston had a sense of déjà vu. And like how Alston and the membership at David H. McNerney Post 658 stepped up when Hurricane Harvey devastated the area in 2017, the post again is stepping up.
During Hurricane Harvey, Post 658 provided more than 9,500 meals to displaced residents during a three-week period in late summer. More than 2,500 people came to the post to request items such as clothing, baby diapers, formula, toiletries and cleaning supplies.
When Imelda hit this September, flash flood emergencies were issued for Crosby and the surrounding counties, as dozens of inches of rain were dropped in the area. Alston even had to move his family out of their home in Hankamer and take up residence at Post 658.
But despite dealing with his own weather-related issues, Alston had an idea. “During Harvey we ended up taking in 400-some people. And we had a distribution center set up,” he said. “So when it started raining nonstop (during Imelda), I said ‘we’re going to need donations. People are going to need stuff.' I contacted some other officers and said ‘do you want to do this?’ They said ‘let’s do it.’”
Alston, who was Post 658’s commander during Hurricane Harvey and currently serves as first vice commander, said some roads in the region are still unpassable, some with knee-deep water. So the post opened up its property for people who had to flee their homes because of flooding to park in and live out of their RVs. The post also began collecting items to donate to those impacted, including bags of clothing, diapers, cleaning supplies, detergent, bottles of bleach, non-perishable food and toiletries.
Alston, who doubles as director of Post 658’s American Legion Riders chapter and was chairman of the department’s first-ever Lone Star Legacy Run, said Legion Riders from Chapter 127 in Tomball were going to donate $200 to the cause. And Legionnaires from other posts also have contributed to the collection effort.
That includes Earl Graham Post 159 in Bryan, which raised funds for fellow Legion posts and donated $2,000 to The American Legion's National Emergency Fund in 2017. and is spending this week collecting supplies to bring to Post 658. The post will deliver the items Sept. 30. Post 159 is accepting items from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. daily through Sept. 27.
“The American Legion works on four pillars, and one of those pillars is assisting veterans in need,” Post 159 Commander Tom Marty told KBTX-TV. “So we are specifically trying to help any of the people down in that area, specifically veterans, military families that are in need of supplies.”
Alston said while the donations collected will assist area veterans, they also will be provided to non-veterans impacted by Imelda. It’s the kind of relationship with those outside of the American Legion Family that Alston has tried to cultivate.
“They say community, state and nation. If you don’t support the community, the community doesn’t support you and then you don’t have a post,” Alston said. “If you have a good rapport with the community, you get that support. The community helps us, and we help the community.”
The American Legion’s National Emergency Fund provides in direct financial assistance to American Legion Family members and Legion posts directly impacted by natural disasters. Click here for more info.