This is the third installment in the “Unprecedented” story series, telling the stories of Harvey through the people of Clear Creek Community Church. To learn more about the series, read the introduction here.
CCCC Couple Takes on 100-Plus Dinner Guests in Wake of Harvey Flooding
It’s Friday afternoon and Art Almanza, 55, is bustling around the kitchen of his home in west League City. There is food – cans of green beans, jars of Prego spaghetti sauce, big bottles of ketchup, stacks of buns, and packages of hot dogs, among other things – on almost every countertop. A large, empty silver pot sits on one of the burners of the stove, and there’s a warm, sweetness in the air as the oven preheats in preparation for the apple crisp that Art is currently putting together. Art’s wife, Kathi, walks in the side door, and Art provides her an update on what supplies they need as she begins to jot them down on a notepad.
This has been the scene at the Almanza’s house every afternoon starting at 2 p.m. for the last 10 days.
There’s a spreadsheet glowing on Art’s computer documenting the meals that he and Kathi have prepared since September 3. Chicken spaghetti, pulled pork, lasagna, gumbo, and smoked sausage are a few of the listed items. At the top of each column there sits a name of a hotel.
“Today we’re doing regular spaghetti,” Art says. “I’ve got that over there for one of the big hotels, and for the smaller ones, it’s Friday night, so we’re going to do chili dogs, hot dogs, chips, and Frito pies.”
Art and Kathi’s neighborhood roads flooded during the incessant rain from Hurricane Harvey, but their house and most others nearby, were spared from even minimal flooding inside their walls.
But the Almanza’s knew that though they had emerged unscathed, many others and their homes hadn’t.
“I just know God did it for a purpose,” Kathi said. “It opens our eyes, and gives us the opportunity to serve.”
The first opportunity came Monday, August 28, from someone in their neighborhood whose house had taken on three feet of water, and Art and Kathi went with a group of their neighbors to begin the process of gutting the house to prevent mold. They also received a request for recipes from a woman in their neighborhood who was making meals for first responders. They didn’t have many recipes to send, but offered to help her cook.
Over the next few days, the Almanza’s prepared meals for the first responders and also started cooking meals for a local hotel that was taking in displaced families from the Harvey flooding.
Driving home one night from delivering the food, Kathi passed several more hotels and got an idea.
“I just went in and asked if they needed meals,” Kathi said. “A lot of [the hotels] have these drop-offs for canned goods, but what are they supposed to do with that?”
Kathi arranged to take dinners to three hotels in addition to the one they were already working with.
So the Almanza’s began the cycle of working in homes in the mornings, tearing out sheetrock among other tasks, and then coming home to begin cooking at 2 p.m. before beginning the two-hour circuit of dispersing meals to the four different locations – feeding upwards of 150 people a day.
“I love to cook,” Art says. “That’s one thing I can do, and wherever somebody needs me to cook something, yeah, I’ll gladly jump in… It’s something my family does. My mom always taught me: how do you show somebody love? Cook for them. Feed them. And that’s what Jesus does, he meets that physical need first – he fed them first – and then he provided a message. So that’s something I try to do.”
Art and Kathi have put generous amounts of their own resources toward this endeavor, that includes not just money, but the space in their home to store all the food and accessories it takes to feed 150 people for weeks at a time. They’ve also received substantial supplies of food from people in their small group and from around their neighborhood. Still others have heard of what they’re doing and donated cash to the cause for their frequent trips to the grocery store.
“You know, I like our church’s mission,” Art says. “We minister to people on the street, where they’re at. So God can use me whether it’s on my motorcycle, whether I take somebody fishing, hunting, or we’re out cleaning a house, or cooking. I’m a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none. But whatever you do, do it to the glory of God… So whatever it is you have, he looks for the availability, not the ability.”
Art returns his attention to the apple crisp. He’s slicing up sticks of butter and putting them into a large metal bowl. He checks his watch, and mutters something about the spaghetti. Kathi has left for the store once again, but not for the last time in this way, as the Almanza’s have promised meals to the people at the hotels for at least the next week.