'Mattress Mack' Driven by Catholic Faith to Shelter, Care for Hurricane Harvey Victims

Cherone Flakes talks to her daughter Kiera while sheltering at Gallery Furniture on Aug. 30, 2017, in Richmond, Texas. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

As soon as Hurricane Harvey struck, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale was inviting those who needed refuge from the storm to come and rest on his floor samples and mattress stock at his Gallery Furniture superstores.

“With God’s grace we’ll all get through this better and stronger because that’s who we are as Texans,” Mack said in an Aug. 27 Facebook live video, giving out his personal cell phone number. “We’ve got lots of beds, we’ve got lots of food, we’ve got water … if you need something, call and we’ll try to get you whatever help we can.”

And he didn’t just wait for victims of the horrific flooding to come trickling in. He sent out delivery trucks that could make it through the high waters — though one stalled during a rescue mission because the water was too deep — to pluck those in need from overpasses, street corners, stores, anywhere they could find Houstonians pleading for help. He welcomed the refugees’ pets so families would not have to leave any member behind.

The stores have become a beacon for aid as Mack now collects and distributes cleaning supplies for people to mop up from the storm, bottled water, shoes and baby supplies. And he’s drawing donors far and wide:

Mack’s stores have also been a beacon for volunteers who have come to help his shelter and aid operation:

In a profile of Mack and his efforts, the Dallas Morning News noted that the businessman got up Sunday, Aug. 27, to go to Mass at Assumption Catholic Church as he does every week. “He never made it. The streets were flooded. By the time he got to his store at Interstate 45 that afternoon, people were calling and emailing him for help.” That night, he posted the Facebook video inviting any and all.

Religion News Service reports that Mattress Mack’s Catholic faith has been the driving force in how he quickly came to residents’ aid. “My faith defines me. It’s who I am,” he said. “How am I going to let my people drown? It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to let my people drown.”

Messages on the walls of Gallery Furniture stores include “You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips” and “What you are is God’s gift to you, what you make of yourself is your gift to God.”

“This tremendous flood of biblical proportions brought this entire city together, and people aren’t fighting and bickering; they’re working with each other and opening the door for each other,” Mack said.

He told KENS5 news in Houston: “I continued my Catholic faith throughout my life, trying to do the right thing and hopefully, you do the right thing and help people along the way.”