When the floods hit our Kingwood community two weeks ago, the reaction from residents, business owners, friends and family was total shock. How can this happen to our “Livable Forest” again? But the knee-jerk reaction was once again replaced by “Kingwood Kindness.” Hundreds rallied to help the families that flooded this month. I reached out to a few of the volunteers and businesses that stepped up, took charge and helped with food, supplies, gifts, donations of money and gift cards and an impromptu Mother’s Day potluck luncheon for over 150 people.
To thank all of the businesses and individuals that have and are continuing to assist our flood families, I want to start with two children, Benjamin Powell, 12, and Isabelle Fehrenbacher Powell, 13. They are two of the six children of the Powells’ blended family. The Powell children wanted to do something for the flooded families. Isabelle (Izzy) approached her mother and gave her the birthday gift money she had recently received. She wanted it to go to help the flooded families. Then her brother Benjamin wanted to contribute. He did a few neighborhood odd jobs and chores and also gave his money to his mom. On Thursday evening (May 9), the kids told their parents that they wanted to cancel the family’s weekend plans and do something special for the neighborhood. They decided to have a small Mother’s Day event and put out a couple of feelers on Friday with the intention of making some sort of hot meal to give out in the park for Mother’s Day. The Powell family expected maybe 10 people to join them, but when Larissa posted the event on “Flooding Kingwood With Kindness,” inviting anyone that wanted to contribute or help, the response was overwhelming. Scott Albritton coordinated the use of the Elm Grove Community Center. Many people and businesses stepped up to help make this a special day. Over 200 people, families, mothers, first responders and community volunteers, enjoyed the most amazing Mother’s Day ever. Gifts donated from local businesses poured in; Ace Hardware-Atascocita, Skero's Furniture and Mattress Center, Scentsy, Fur Babies and several more locally owned businesses donated. Volunteers creatively wrapped these gifts and gave one to every mother at the luncheon.
Many stores and food establishments in Kingwood also contributed: Kroger, Randalls, H-E-B, Dickey’s BBQ, Kingwood Bagel, Great Harvest, Starbucks, Buttered Up Catering, A Grand Affair Catering, Pizza Hut-Northpark and Dominos. Most area churches contributed and/or sent volunteers. Free babysitting was offered at the luncheon. A children’s arts and craft table was set up and the children at the event made Mother’s Day cards for their moms. The event ended mid-afternoon but the Powell family didn’t return to their home until after 7 p.m. This was indeed a coming together of faith, family and friends. All accomplished within three days! And it all started with two caring, giving children.
Meanwhile, working behind the scenes and helping as much as possible to make the flood victims, volunteers and first responders healthy and hot meals delivered to them street by street were two local, family-owned restaurants who coordinated their own food brigades. Throughout the recent flooding and immediate recovery these two great restaurants stepped up to help in a delicious way. Kingwood Taco Shop on Mills Branch Road and Hunan Gardens on Kingwood Drive are just two of the many eateries in the greater Kingwood area that have been helping the victims of the flash flooding our area received.
You may know our home-grown Greg Mata, a member of the Kingwood Country Club, local recreational golfer with an impressive handicap, loving husband to one of our Riverwood teachers, and devoted father to three daughters. After 22 years working for a major beverage company, Mata took a step back, resigned from his secure job, and elected to open a taco shop in Kingwood. With no training or background experience in the food and beverage industry, he was determined to make this happen. Hiring a friend’s mother who has all the recipes in her head and heart was the right thing to do and they make a fantastic team. Unfortunately for Mata, he got off to a slow start. Not soon after he closed the deal on his shop and finalized the plans for his build-out, Hurricane Harvey pounded and flooded Kingwood. Contractors were swamped. Although his project was scheduled to be completed with his business opening in six to eight weeks, it was put on hold due to families and other businesses that were trying to recover and rebuild. Mata had to wait eight months for his restaurant construction to be completed. These costly delays after Harvey hurt his business, so when the floods hit two weeks ago he knew what storm devastation can do to families, homes and businesses. The taco shop did not flood and did not lose power, but after serving as many as he could while constantly watching the weather, Mata closed the restaurant and urged his staff to get home quickly and safely.
Then on Thursday and Friday, short-staffed and tired, he and his staff made and donated over 100 dozen tacos to flood victims. Volunteers came in, picked up tacos and delivered them to families and volunteers on the flooded streets. Some families whose homes flooded came in to the shop and he fed them as well, not accepting any payments. Mata is supporting and praying for those that are rebuilding their lives, people struggling to clean up and move on. We are very fortunate to have this community-committed restaurant in Kingwood. The Kingwood Taco Shop is located at 2510 Mills Branch Road, Suite 120: kingwoodtacoshop.com.
Jenny Wang Hou is the third-generation owner of Hunan Garden. This 30-year strong restaurant in Kingwood is one of our long-standing establishments that exemplifies what it means to be a family-owned restaurant with strong community roots. Although Hunan Garden flooded during The Harvey Flood of 2017 and would not be open for business for several months, that didn’t hold back their commitment to helping flood victims with healthy meals. Just one day after getting into the restaurant to start cleaning it out, she realized that they were not the only people going to nearby fast-food outlets to feed employees and families. No one was getting well-rounded meals with vegetables. Her stoves, ovens and grills still worked, so they cleaned and sanitized the equipment and started cooking. They made chicken and broccoli with rice to go. Hou had a map of all flooded streets and villages and sent volunteers and staff to deliver to specific streets in flooded areas, keeping track of who went where. It was very well documented so that they could try to reach as many first responders, volunteers and flooded families as possible. She even sent meals as far away as Katy to a group of homeowners there that flooded. Hunan Gardens managed to make and have delivered 1,400 meals in two days. Fast forward to the floods we just had. Again, the restaurant assisted families, this time from a completely different flooded area of Kingwood. Over 400 meals were made and delivered. Hou had over 30 volunteers show up to assist in the deliveries. Over 200 of those meals went to Elm Grove, and just as many went to Trailwood and other villages that also flooded. The families all received healthy meals of broccoli and chicken in brown sauce with rice and egg rolls. This young 30-something mother and restaurateur has a passion for our community. Hou left her lucrative corporate career a few years ago to return to Hunan Garden and take over the business. It’s all in the family. When serving people is in your blood it shows through both great times and in times of need. Kingwood is blessed to have Hou and Hunan Garden in our community.