Tom Posey shows faith in action

Published 8:56 am Saturday, September 30, 2017

By Larry Holt

The Orange Leader

Tom Posey is an unassuming man in suspenders and blue jeans that doesn’t put on airs. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey he has become the personification of the very best of the strong but humble, roll up your sleeves and get it done Southeast Texas can-do spirit, doing what he does best, cooking for and feeding people.

“I’ve been cooking all my life. That’s my talent. God says we are to use our talent to help people,” Tom said. “God also said, ‘Feed my sheep’, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m feeding people in desperate need of help.”

Born 65 years ago in Crowley, Louisiana, Tom was raised all his life in Orange and from his earliest memories has been cooking and feeding people.

“I learned to cook from my Grandma and Momma. I love it,” and with the devastation from Hurricane Harvey that ravaged Orange, “there’s a need here. People need help and I’m doing what I can, with God’s help and a lot of support from a lot of organizations and individual’s too” Tom said. “Me and my wife Linda are out here doing what we can under our tent, with our wood grill and donated food items. I am so thankful to have help from volunteers cutting vegetables, serving meals, or doing other things that need getting done.”

“We couldn’t feed people if it weren’t for food donations and other help from HEB, VFW, Southeast Texas Food Bank, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and American Legion, including individual folks donating what they can like meat, fruit, canned goods, wood for the grill, bottled water and much more,” Tom said. “In the early days, the Cajun Army and Cajun Navy provided food donations too.”

When his business, Oza’s Diner on MacArthur Drive was hit by Hurricane Harvey, instead of “twiddling” his thumbs Tom responded to the calling in his heart to help with relief efforts at the emergency center set up at the Northway Shopping center in the early days after the storm.   When businesses began reopening and emergency relief organizations left the area, he and Linda moved their tent and equipment to the VFW Post 2775 parking lot at 5303 North 16th Street and began cooking. From comments made by citizens appreciative of meals they received, Tom estimates he will be there for another two or three months – perhaps longer.

“I’ll be here until I’m no longer needed,” Tom said.

As of close of the day on Thursday, Tom estimates they have served approximately 29,500 plates of food to citizens of Orange County since the rains stopped.

“People have returned to their homes but have little or no money to buy food,” Tom said.

When asked why he does what he is doing, Tom solemnly replied, “I am called to help. This is me doing what I am called by God to do.”

In a single day 2,500 to 3,000 meals were served and while the daily volume has now slowed, the task remains a daunting one to prepare and serve nearly 1,000 meals a day starting at noon until the food runs out.

“People just come. I guess by word of mouth,” Linda said. “Some say they post our location on Facebook. Maybe that’s how people find out we are here, but they come and we serve them.”

When asked what help he needs Tom said he can use anything.

“Especially canned goods like vegetables and fruit. Meat, wood for the grill, and bottled water too. We can use most anything. Help from folks too. Although we start serving at noon each day, if someone comes here at 8 in the morning wanting to help, I’ll put them to work.” Tom said, “If someone wants to buy an HEB gift card, I can use that as well. There is such a great need in this county it is almost hard to imagine. Some folks have broke down and cried while in line. The stress of everything is almost too much for them to take, but we help them as best we can with what we have and everyone seems to appreciate it.”

Tom said his efforts under the tent would run more smoothly if he had an electric freezer so he wouldn’t have to travel from place to place to pick up donated perishable food, like meat or fresh vegetables. “Things like that would be on hand and would make it so much easier on me. We use what little money we have for gas to get around,” Tom said. “We are just doing what we can and I am so thankful for everything everyone has helped us with.”

A small travel trailer on loan would be a blessing he said so that he and his wife could spend more uninterrupted time serving the people instead of taking time away to attend to other needs.

After Harvey struck Orange, Tom didn’t wait to respond when called in his heart to step up and fill the gap in people’s lives. He experienced the suffering and knew he had to do what he could, with what was given.

Nearly a month after flood waters receded, Tom, like others in our community and surrounding area, is making a difference every day – putting faith in action under his tent in the parking lot of the VFW – going about his duty without fanfare or self promotion, tending the wood fired grill and all the many other details required to prepare and serve meals made from scratch for those in need.

Johnny Campbell of Deweyville has been coming three times a week for the past several weeks.

“He’s a God send,” Campbell said. “It’s hard to fix food for yourself and your family when you have nothing left and are on a fixed income.” Jean Mason of Orange has been coming everyday for the past three weeks to bring food to her elderly parents. “It is wonderful knowing there are people like Tom in this world that help other people. I don’t know what we would do if he weren’t here.”

Tom Posey is more than a friend of Orange – Tom, and Linda too, is family.