(HOUSTON) — The hometown hero who opened the doors of his furniture store in downtown Houston to anyone seeking shelter during Hurricane Harvey announced that he will be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at the same store “for all people who were affected by Hurricane Harvey, and people who weren’t affected.”
“We want to get together as a community and be grateful that we’ve gotten through this storm together,” Jim McIngvale, better known as “Mattress Mack,” told ABC News.
“We’re going to celebrate the things we have to be thankful for,” McIngvale, 66, added. “We have had a lot of problems in this community over the past three months, but we also have a lot to be thankful for.
“To me, that’s what Thanksgiving is about, giving thanks,” he said, adding that “anybody and everybody” is invited to join on Thanksgiving day.
It has been several months since Harvey’s powerful winds and devastating rainfall inundated southeastern Texas, causing catastrophic flooding that damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes. Even after the deluge of floodwaters receded, some people are still reeling as they work to rebuild their lives and communities.
“I think there is still a massive amount of cleanup to be done,” McIngvale said. “There are still a lot of children that are displaced from schools, although that is getting better every day.
“There is a whole lot of mental anguish,” he added. “People who have lived in the same house for 10, 20, 30 years … and then have to have all their belongings in one black trash bag.
“It is up to us to be very empathetic and listen to these people,” McIngvale said.
The owner of Gallery Furniture said that he decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner for his community after being inspired by the “resilience” of those most affected by the storm.
“Everyday I’m amazed by the resilience of these people, and how brave they are and how strong they are,” he said.
He added that he hopes the Thanksgiving dinner will help people to recover as a community.
“I think if we can get people together around a meal it’s a great way to build relationships, and that’s what we’re trying to do, build relationships and move forward as a community,” he said.
While the dinner is being funded out of McIngvale’s own pocket, he said that some local food vendors have offered to help out with the cooking, and scores of volunteers have also come forward offering to help out with their time.
“We have hundreds of volunteers who want to come and serve because I think people get as much out of giving as they do receiving,” McIngvale said.
He added that he “would not be surprised” if 2,500 to 3,000 guests show up for the Thanksgiving dinner.
Despite the national attention McIngvale received in the midst of the storm, after he opened up his businesses as shelters, telling ABC News at the time, “to hell with profits, let’s take care of the people,” he said he does not consider himself a hero.
“I think the heroes are the first responders, certainly not me,” he said. “The heroes are the ones who went and risked their lives. All I did was open a furniture store.”
Despite shying away from being called a hero, McIngvale said he and his family has been touched by the response from the community to his selfless actions.
“The community is great. They all asked me, ‘Why did I do this?'” he said, saying that he decided to open his business simply “because it’s the right thing to do.”
McIngvale added that he and his wife were “just trying to set an example for our children.”
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