Houston businessman turned his furniture stores into storm shelters for hurricane victims

Houston businessman turned his furniture stores into storm shelters for hurricane victims

Over the last few days, the news has been saturated with reports of life-threatening floods and record amounts of rain as Texas continues to be battered by a tropical storm. With at least eight confirmed deaths so far, the storm - which began as Hurricane Harvey - has clearly had devastating effects. However, amongst so much tragedy, a few glimmers of hope have shone through.

One particularly heartwarming story comes from a Houston furniture salesman named Jim McIngvale. As everybody else was boarding up their businesses and fleeing the area, McInvale - who goes by the nickname “Mattress Mack" - opened his doors to accommodate those in most need of shelter.

Posting from his company's Facebook page, McInvale announced on the weekend that "Gallery Furniture North Freeway and Gallery Furniture Grand Parkway are now open as shelters for anyone who is in need".

In an interview with NPR, the store owner explained that,

“When the hurricane first hit down here, my thought was this is going to be a one-day event. Then I came into work the next day and I saw the devastation of the entire area and decided it would be best if we opened this 100,000-square-foot furniture store as a shelter.”

McInvale was offering more than just a place to stay, though. In a second post later that day, Mattress Mack posted images showing "the Gallery Furniture driver going out in the biggest truck we have to help try to rescue people", and smiling faces of those that had been picked up from the floods.

McInvale reportedly provided breakfast, lunch and dinner to the 400 people staying at the two stores, which were at capacity level within a day. Still wanting to provide as much help as he could, the store owner urged those in need of shelter to go to a nearby convention centre.

Meanwhile, megachurch pastor Joel Osteen - whom one would expect to be one of the first to respond to those in need - cancelled services on Sunday and has yet to reopen the church doors. Photographs have shown that the church is untouched by flood waters, and would have provided excellent shelter for desperate local residents.

Rather than comment on his failure to assist flood victims, Osteen tweeted that "Jesus promises us peace that passes understanding", leaving many of his followers to question how much the pastor is actually committed to his followers.

Thankfully, people like McInvale refused to give up, and the Gallery Furniture Facebook page posted again yesterday to let people know that they had made more room for anyone who needed it. McInvale has even welcomed animals into his stores, stipulating that any pets would be allowed as long as they were kept kennelled.

This isn't the first time the philanthropic mattress salesman has helped out in a storm, either. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, McInvale took in 200 evacuees. Eight years later, in 2013, he was presented the Daily Point of Light Award by former President George Bush in recognition of his selfless actions.

Signing off his most recent post, Mattress Mack offered words of encouragement and gratitude to all those who were helping out during the storm. "Thank you to every volunteer, and our service men and women for their brave and unwavering compassion during this difficult time," he wrote.

So many heroes have emerged during this difficult time, and McInvale is certainly one of them.