A small group of volunteers from Robstown, helped by many members of the community, brought food and relief to over 800 Houston residents displaced by Hurricane Ike last week.
The group, led by Joseph Ramirez, received donations and gathered food for a trip they made to Houston Friday.
Ramirez said the idea of providing assistance came early last week, when he began hearing firsthand stories of the devastation in Houston and Galveston from friends in Houston.
"I'm originally from Houston, and I've got some people at my house who evacuated from there," Ramirez said.
Ramirez put a call out for support, and said he was not disappointed with the response. A fund drive was held Sept. 17 on radio station Magic 104.9, and he received donations from Fermin's Restaurant, Rudy Lerma, L.R. Global in Houston and U.S. Congressman Solomon Ortiz's office, among many others.
Those donations allowed Ramirez to purchase 25 briskets, which were cooked by the Robstown cooking team the "Back Off Cookers," led by Danny Saenz. That team cooked brisket throughout the night last Thursday, in preparation for the trip to Houston last Friday.
"It's been overwhelming," Ramirez said of the response.
Ramirez and several other individuals transported the cooked meat, enough supplies to turn that meat into sandwiches, and a 25-foot trailer filled with cases of water to Houston Friday morning.
Ramirez said that more than a week after the hurricane made landfall, evidence of the storm is still fresh.
"You could tell right away, as soon as you drove into Houston that there was damage," Ramirez said. "There were billboards blown away, power lines down, very visible damage."
The team arrived at the Tejano Center, located in east Houston, Friday afternoon and immediately began handing out food and water to the evacuees and relief workers at the site.
"There were a lot of seniors, a lot of kids who couldn't do things for themselves. It was good to help people who couldn't help themselves," Ramirez said. "They were very grateful. Obviously, they had no running water, no electricity."
Saenz, who went with the team, said the group emptied the trailer and all of the vehicles of everything they could give to those at the center.
"There were people leaving with five, ten sandwiches. It didn't matter to us, as long as they got it," Saenz said. "They were very appreciative about it."
Ramirez said he had watched extensive coverage of the hurricane relief efforts on television, but nothing compared to being there in person.
"It was what I expected, but when you see it firsthand, it's a lot different than seeing it on the news. We were prepared for what we were going to see, but not the emotion of it," Ramirez said. "It really humbles you to see something like that."
Saenz praised the community for its response, and said none of it would have been possible without the generosity of local residents.
"I knew that the community, when they see people in need, they come out," Saenz said. "In a small town like Robstown, when people hear there's a need they come out."