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Houston furniture store owner sends convoy of supplies for victims of Hurricane Ida; opens showroom as shelter

A convoy of trucks heads to Louisiana on Aug. 31 from Gallery Furniture in Houston. (Gallery Furniture)
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Jim McIngvale watched in horror as Hurricane Ida made landfall, pummeling Louisiana. For him, it meant one thing: Time to “saddle up and get in the game,” he said.

McIngvale — known as “Mattress Mack” in Houston, where he owns Gallery Furniture — quickly put out a call for donations of generators, food and water.

“We are loading up and getting ready to help our New Orleans friends,” he tweeted. “God bless!”

Then he and his employees loaded every delivery truck on the lot to take the supplies to people in Louisiana slammed by the storm. More than a million households are without power.

“A lot of them have lost everything they have,” said McIngvale, 70, widely recognized around Houston for his eccentric television commercials, including one that featured him wearing an actual mattress.

With help from several volunteer groups, 30 trucks — including some that were donated by area grocery chains — headed out on Tuesday, loaded with supplies dropped off by people in the Houston area, McIngvale said.

Around 70 additional truckloads, filled with everything from diapers to dog food, will be on the road to Louisiana over the next few days, he said.

“Louisiana helped us during Hurricane Harvey, so it’s the right thing to do to help our neighbors,” McIngvale said.

He also opened his furniture showroom in north Houston as a safe haven to several dozen families who fled damaged homes and rising floodwaters along the Gulf Coast.

McIngvale estimates that about 50 families and individuals have shown up so far for a place to sleep and a hot meal.

“You can see the stress and trauma on their faces when they come in,” said McIngvale, who has opened his showroom as a shelter many times after natural disasters. “They’ve had their lives turned upside down, and we’re going to do all we can to help them.”

McIngvale said that he and his team hope to connect people with social workers to help them line up housing until they can return to Louisiana and rebuild their lives.

Ana Lee is among those who lost almost everything in the storm. Lee, who is from Destrehan, La., near New Orleans, was sheltering in place with her husband and two children in their rental home when Ida hit.

“Our entire house collapsed except for my bedroom where we were hunkered down,” said Lee, 35, who is six months pregnant. “After the police cleared our street on Monday, we decided to get out and find a motel room.”

She and her husband, Duriel Lee, drove their family six hours to Gallery Furniture after a housekeeper at their motel told them about McIngvale’s generosity, Ana Lee said.

“They welcomed us warmly and gave us sausage and eggs for breakfast and chicken Alfredo for lunch,” she said. “My kids are allowed to play in the showroom, and they’ve had all the ice cream they can eat.”

“I really have to tip my hat to Mattress Mack’s kindness at helping so many,” Lee said. “It’s a pleasure to meet somebody who has a good heart.”

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McIngvale knows what it takes to coordinate a large relief effort. He turned his furniture stores into shelters for people who fled Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019. In February, he again opened one of his showrooms for Texans who were hit hard by a deadly winter storm.

He said he knew he could make an impact by bringing supplies to the hardest hit areas in Louisiana, where people are desperate for water, nonperishable food and medical supplies. But he needed help gathering and loading the supplies onto the trucks.

People who stepped up by the dozens Tuesday said they helped McIngvale after years of watching him extend himself to people in need.

Chris Ogle, a former officer with the U.S. Coast Guard, helped load trucks for three hours on Monday after donating some bottled water to the effort.

“I helped respond to Hurricane Katrina, so I know what people are facing after Hurricane Ida,” said Ogle, 43, who now works as an attorney in Houston. “When you see people suffering, how can you not help?”

David Maulsby, a friend of McIngvale’s, helped to coordinate volunteers.

“Mack has a big heart and people are inspired by that,” he said. “And there’s no place in the world like Houston, Texas, when it comes to meeting needs in a crisis.”

Maulsby, 56, called in dozens of veterans who are involved with the PTSD Foundation of America in Houston, where he serves as executive director.

“They’ve been loading trucks for two days and the cars keep on coming,” he said. “People pull up, we empty their trunk, then we pass the supplies from one person to the next up the line and load them into the truck.”

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“Whether it’s one case of water or a truckload, we’re happy to see so many people pitching in,” Maulsby added.

People who have been affected by natural disasters know the hardship, Maulsby said, and they have seen how McIngvale jumps in to help and mobilizes others.

“If you knew Mack, you wouldn’t be surprised by the long lines of people in their cars waiting to pop their trunks and donate what’s inside,” he said.

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