Disaster Helping Hands is a nonprofit dedicated to helping families and communities following disasters such as fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. They supply household items, when their inventory permits, like appliances and furniture to those in need that have lost their possessions due to a disaster. The founder and director, Leon Green, fund raises tirelessly, and can be found no matter what the weather is outside gathering donations from cars passing by on the intersection of Central Freeway and Airport Drive. Leon is a 77-year-old veteran and his devotion to the nonprofit never wavers.
The nonprofit owns a 9,000 square foot warehouse full of all types of items. It took eight and a half years to raise the funds to buy the land and build the warehouse. “In 2014 we got the land. In 2015 the building was completed so that we could begin to use it. However, we aren’t finished, we would like to extend it another 300 feet which would take us up to 18,000 square feet,” he said, “Nine thousand sounds like a big space, but we need more floor space. So, in the meantime, we are going vertical like at the big box stores. That’s why our ceilings are so high. We can accomplish basically the same thing by going upward that we can accomplish lengthwise. To do this we will need a fork lift and numerous rows of racks to multiply the floor space. We can do that for about $90,000, so it is a trade off. In the future we may still go lengthwise, but I guess you can see it is a matter of the best use of resources,” Leon explained. The nonprofit has an annual mail out to garner monetary donations for which they are always grateful.
And of course, they accept working appliances, furniture and other household items. “I get many of my donations when a wife says, ‘Honey I want a stainless-steel kitchen,’” he said with a laugh. “There is nothing wrong with the old appliances they just want to update. So, they call me, and I’ll say that we will take them. We can’t take anything that needs major repairs, but minor things we can fix. We don’t have the money to make major repairs. When people want to donate furniture, we bring it to the warehouse too and store it; and when something happens, we can help people.” Many of the people that have been helped by the nonprofit also donate in one way or another, and people who are downsizing often call Leon and donate furniture. Even estate sales sometimes donate their gently used items.
“I try my best to get things that I wouldn’t mind in my house and with that in mind, we pass it down to the individuals. We can definitely use inventory that is good quality. We don’t sell anything for any reason and have never done so. We also give people a paper that they can use for tax purposes because we are a 501 C-3 nonprofit.
“We help people on two levels. The first level for example is if someone has a house fire. They are asked if they have insurance or the means to replace the items. If they do have insurance or can replace them, we don’t help them. Otherwise it would be a case of double dipping. If the same person is involved in a major disaster, those rules go out the window. We will help everyone until our resources are liquidated. In the case of a tornado or massive flooding, we treat everybody the same. The intent is to try and help people get back on their feet with minimal problems. The idea is that everyone is hurting, so, we do our best to get them back on their feet. We have given away over 300 tons of furniture,” he said.
And those goods don’t just stay in Wichita Falls. For example, Marble Falls, Texas and the Highland Lakes area have recently experienced a massive flood. Leon and his team of volunteer drivers took 8 U-Haul trucks full of items to Marble Falls which helped over 100 families get back on their feet.
“When someone’s home has been burnt or flooded, and they think, ‘God how am I going to get the money to redo the new location?’ We are the answer because it is free. Free from us to them, but it is not from me; it’s from the people of the community. I only had the idea to try to put together an organization that would help the needs of people following a disaster. The people in the area seemed to adopt that idea and that’s how we have gotten to this point. This is their project and their property. I am nothing but the person who facilitates it. I just really enjoy what I am doing. I am at a point in my life where I can say that and still help people in the process,” he said smiling.
If you would like to make a donation, Leon Green can be reached
– Cindy Kahler Thomas