MILES O’BRIEN: The outpouring of people helping
those in need has been enormous in Houston over the past few days. One example is a group of restauranteurs and
chefs who got together to supply food to both victims and first-responders. Houston Public Media’s Tomeka Weatherspoon
paid a visit. She joins me now from the Convention Center. Tomeka, what are the restaurants doing? TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON, Houston Public Media:
They’re gathering together to help each other and to help the community. So, we visited Reef Restaurants today, and
they’re making so much food. Yesterday, they told me they made 10,000 meals
to give away to hospitals, evacuees, and first-responders. I talked with co-owner of the restaurant Jennifer
Caswell. And she said the restaurant community is just
really tight-knit and they just wanted to do something to help. JENNIFER CASWELL, Co-Owner, Reef Restaurant:
As we sat there and watched what was going on and we knew that we wouldn’t be able to
come back in here and serve our customers, we knew that we had product that had to be
gone through. we also knew that we had customers and vendors
that wanted to help. And we wanted to turn the kitchen into a hub
to be able to do that. And we know that our chef community and our
restaurant community is such a strong and well-knit community that we could get everybody
on the same page and working together towards that goal. MILES O’BRIEN: So, Tomeka, how do the restaurants
figure out how and where to send the food? TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON: Well, initially, it seemed
like they just put the word out that they were available to help in any way that anyone
needed. And, you know, I was talking to some chef
this morning, and they were saying now they’re just getting requests. They’re getting text messages. Can you please help us with this? And they are more than happy to help. And they’re getting a lot of volunteers too. So, I talked with a volunteer who is helping
in another way. His name was Gavin Torabi. And he was going around to precincts, and
he went to a station in Southwest Houston to see what they needed. GAVIN TORABI, Volunteer: They were down to
basically tortilla chips and water. And I said, instead of helping aimlessly wander,
let’s direct our focus. And it started out. We asked, how many mouths do they have? They said, we can’t tell you. So, we guesstimated, bought 50. And 50 turned into 100, and 100 turned into
200. And, like I said, we’re up into the 2,000s
now. TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON: And, Miles, like I said,
people are volunteering in a lot of different ways. One really crucial way is physically driving
the food to these locations, to these hospitals, to these shelters. I talked with and rode with a volunteer driver. His name was Mark Austin. And he pointed out he is delivering food from
some of the best places to eat in Houston. MARK AUSTIN, Volunteer: In the last 24 hours,
I have delivered food from Reef, Riel Restaurant, Hugo’s, Brennan’s. So it’s not — we’re not just delivering ham
sandwiches to people. We’re delivering hot, fresh, best product
food, you know, from James Beard Award-winning chefs. MILES O’BRIEN: Tomeka, I imagine there are
a lot of other people and a lot of other places that could use this kind of service. I think of assisted-living facilities, even
private homes. Are there plans to expand? TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON: Well, right now, they’re
really trying to get organized, because demand is so high. And they’re really just getting off the ground. So many restaurants had flooding issues and
travel issues. And they have just so many demands they need
to meet. I was talking to one chef, and he was saying
you know, they ran out of protein really quickly. But because of all the volunteers, they were
able to get it within the hour. Another restaurant owner said you know, what
we really need is refrigerated trucks. But the need changes minute by minute as the
situation here keeps changing. MILES O’BRIEN: It’s great to see that kind
of response. Tomeka Weatherspoon with Houston Public Media,
thank you. TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON: Thank you.