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Meet ‘Mattress Mack,’ The Houston Man Who Turned His Furniture Store Into Refuge For Flood Victims

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When your city experiences a flood, you sometimes feel hopeless about how to move forward. It seems the water won’t stop anytime soon. That’s what happened in Sept. 2019 to residents in Houston, Texas, who recently witnessed Tropical Storm Imelda wreaking havoc on the city. Flood victims had nowhere to turn for shelter. Luckily, Gallery Furniture salesman Jim McIngvale knew the perfect solution to lend a helping hand.

Severe Flood Damage

This isn’t the first time Houston, Texas has experienced flood damage. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought catastrophic flooding to the city, destroying homes and displacing more than 30,000 people. Since then, the city has been more cautious against tropical storms and hurricanes, but sometimes a storm is too strong to fight.

In Sept. 2019, Tropical Storm Imelda forced the evacuation of at least 1,000 residents in Houston, killing two people. The storm brought the most catastrophic flooding since Hurricane Harvey. People were seeking shelter, and just like he did during Hurricane Harvey, McIngvale decided to open his furniture showroom as a shelter for flood victims.

Helping The Victims

McIngvale, otherwise known as “Mattress Mack,” started the process by sending out his Gallery Furniture trucks to rescue Tropical Storm Imelda’s stranded victims. He commented, “I can’t let my people drown. It’s so easy to open the doors and let them in…We let them in and take care of them, just let them know that people care about them.”

On the first day he opened the store doors, McIngvale welcomed about 120 people. These individuals were taken in from stranded vehicles, strip mall parking lots, and flooded homes. However, once they arrived at Gallery Furniture, their troubles were over for a moment. McIngvale and his salespeople provided them warm clothing (a Gallery Furniture sweatshirt), food, and drinks from the store’s in-house restaurant.

Victims slept on the store’s mattresses, sofas, couch beds, and any additional furniture pieces with a cushion. They watched television shows and the local news on the store’s big-screen televisions. If they needed to take a shower, McIngvale granted them access to the employee shower. According to McIngvale, about 15 to 20 victims stayed the night. They felt safe, as long as they were away from the floodwaters.

Helping During Harvey, Too

During 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, city residents of Houston used every resource at their disposal to combat the flooding. McIngvale observed how other people in the city were helping victims, and he knew he had to also help. “My daughter’s favorite saying is, if not for my struggle, I would not have my strength,” McIngvale commented in 2017, remembering his daughter’s fight against severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. “For a couple hundred years, Texans have banded together and helped each other, and we will get through this crisis of flooding and hurricane.”

McIngvale’s employees waded through water to reach trapped citizens and bring them to Gallery Furniture. For several nights, about 400 people poured into the store’s two locations in Houston. McIngvale collected donations of clothing and supplies, and volunteers helped serve the meals in the store’s in-house restaurant. McIngvale selflessly helped hundreds of individuals, and he was eventually thanked for his act of kindness.

An Icon To Be Remembered

After the effects of Hurricane Harvey, President Donald Trump publicly praised McIngvale before a national audience in October 2017. Trump commented, “In Mack, we see the strength of the American spirit.” In addition, more than 200,000 people signed a petition to ask the city of Houston to name a day after “Mattress Mack” because of his generosity.

Citizens refer to him as an “icon” who definitely “deserves to be remembered.” Following his recent act of kindness during Tropical Storm Imelda, McIngvale is more deserving than ever for a high honor. To this day, if disaster strikes in Houston, he doesn’t hesitate to lend a helping hand. He will always say, “Yes, we are open as a shelter.”

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