On Wednesday, March 25, Pastor Mike Martin of Huffman First Baptist Church hosted an online community forum that provided much needed information about what is going on in the local area regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea behind the forum came from concerns by Martin as he watched the pandemic unfold in the news. He realized he was not hearing much, if anything, about how the crisis was being handled locally.
The forum included Harris County Commissioner- Precinct Two Adrian Garcia, Huffman Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Benny Soileau, Huffman Emergency Management System Chief Kasey Sammons, and Huffman Food Pantry Director Diane Chen. Each participant explained what their respective organizations were doing to meet the crisis. They provided suggestions and insight as to how the public can best get through the situation and seek help, if needed, from their organizations.
Garcia explained Harris County Precinct 2 is having trouble with its various food banks having enough food to supply needs.
“I have put $280,000 of my budget dollars in a program so that we can get more food into the Precinct 2 food programs. I want to make sure we are getting it to the right people who need it the most,” Garcia said. He also explained the definition of restaurants operating as essential businesses under the current Harris County “Stay Home, Work Safe” order and what they can do.
“It means that the restaurants are allowed to do road-side take-out or delivery types of service. So please go to [the web site] ‘readyharris.org’ and you will find the order in its entirety. We have worked hard to make sure that this event doesn’t entirely destroy our local economy,” he said.
Soileau explained the Huffman school district is now delivering meals to over 300 students who had been receiving meals at the schools and is partnering with food banks to assist other people as possible. He highlighted that the out-of-school curriculum was starting up and the district is providing laptops to those students and families who are in need and don’t have them in their homes. He answered a question on many people’s minds about continued employment and paychecks in the school district.
“Also, we want our employees to know that everyone is going to get paid. Your job role or description may look a little different; you may wear multiple hats but with that being said, everyone is going to receive a check,” he said.
Soileau said that the board of trustees had just met in a special board meeting to affirm that decision.
Sammons explained that Huffman EMS is currently working on a high-alert basis for making sure protective procedures are followed when they respond to calls.
“Our dispatch center is now doing a screening. When you call 911, expect to have them to ask you questions about your symptoms, specific symptoms and even ask about fever. What they are trying to do is determine whether or not we need to take appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) before we come in. That PPE is hard to come by right now, believe it or not,” Sammons said. She explained they have special PPE they will use and wear if they think there is possible exposure to COVID-19.
Chen updated the situation at the Huffman Pantry: increasing demand and need for more bulk sources of food items.
“Last week we had triple what we had before. Our big issue right now is that we are not able to buy in quantity.” she said. As a result, she said, they are paying much more for what they need. She would like to have more stores available that can supply larger quantities of much of their food needs.
“We really see the increase coming in the next weeks or months or however long this lasts. We can always use more help, especially in the ages 18 to 50 or 55,” Chen said. She explained volunteers really need to be able to lift packages because they are now delivering the food to the vehicles, rather than having people come into the pantry.
A 50-minute video of the forum is available for viewing online at youtube.com/watch?v=lvq-rCpQPlo . Martin explained he is not planning on scheduling forums like this on a regular basis. However, as the COVID-19 situation progresses, any informational updates or online forums that may be appropriate will be scheduled and announced through his church online communications, its web page and other general means of getting the word out, including notifications to The Tribune.