Houston Chronicle

A TIME FOR SERVICE ON MLK DAY

With some modificati­ons due to the pandemic, events went on to honor leader’s life

- By Zach Despart STAFF WRITER

Veronica Smith, from front left, her nephew Nicholas Rogers, 17, her brother Herman Rogers and her sister Catherine Rogers load donated items Monday at MacGregor Park. Across Houston, plans for Martin Luther King Day events were amended to accommodat­e the pandemic.

For 12 years, Adele O’Neal was afraid to walk down the decrepit ramp in front of her Acres Homes house. She broke her leg in a 2009 fall and relies on a walker, yet only felt comfortabl­e leaving her home with the assistance of one of her 11 grandchild­ren.

“I wasn’t able to go outside because I was scared the wood was so rotten,” O’Neal said. “I don’t go anywhere. My granddaugh­ter takes me to the store, and that’s it.”

On Monday, a group of volunteers from Rebuilding Together built O’Neal a new ramp as she watched from her porch with her twin brother, Andrew.

Across Houston, plans for Martin Luther King Day events were amended to accommodat­e the pandemic. This was the first project the nonprofit, which has been repairing homes in the Houston area for 38 years, constructe­d since this past March when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Texas.

“A ramp is a volunteer

project we feel is reasonably safe to do at this point,” CEO Christine Holland said. “Normally when we work on the outside of someone’s home … we’d have 20 to 25 people. We’re not ready for that.”

O’Neal said the improvemen­t will enable her to stay in her home, which her parents built in 1945. Like many homes in the historical­ly African American neighborho­od, it lacked plumbing but had a garden, fruit trees and a chicken coop.

She said she has refused offers from real estate investors to buy her property because she wants to keep the house in her family for future generation­s.

“I wouldn’t take anything for this house,” she said.

In Third Ward, the city’s annual parade was held virtually, with taped performanc­es from bands, cheerleade­rs and dancers, as well as live interviews from MacGregor Park.

The co-grand marshals of the event, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, said the fight for racial justice continues, 53 years after King’s death. Hidalgo cited the killing of Houston native George Floyd by Minneapoli­s police this past May.

“He reminded us that this is a day for agitation, and that this is a day for action,” Hidalgo said.

There were also three food drives in the area organized by chef Chris Williams, owner of Southern cuisine restaurant Lucille’s.

Williams’ team distribute­d 1,000 meals each in Rosenberg, Richmond and Fifth Ward.

Williams said his nonprofit designed the meals to the tastes of residents where the dropoff sites were located. The meals for Richmond and Fifth Ward, which have many Black residents, consisted of smothered pork chops with mashed potatoes, gravy and collard greens.

The Rosenberg meals, designed with Latino residents in mind, featured bistec a la Mexicana with Spanish rice and charro beans.

Williams said he wanted each family to feel respected, rather than feeling like they were receiving the leftovers from someone else’s pantry.

“It’s something as simple as considerin­g, what does someone like to eat?” Williams said. “People come together over food, and just to take that one thing off their never-ending list of concerns, for one day, it’s kind of addictive.”

While the pandemic has put many Texans out of work, Williams said many of the residents his food drives serve were hungry before COVID-19 struck. Each drop site on Monday was out of meals within an hour.

 ?? Jon Shapley / Staff photograph­er ??
Jon Shapley / Staff photograph­er
 ?? Godofredo A. Vásquez / Staff photograph­er ?? Adele O’Neal, center, watches volunteers build a new ramp Monday for her house in Acres Homes.
Godofredo A. Vásquez / Staff photograph­er Adele O’Neal, center, watches volunteers build a new ramp Monday for her house in Acres Homes.
 ?? Yi-Chin Lee / Staff photograph­er ?? Pam Allen prepares to distribute meals at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
Yi-Chin Lee / Staff photograph­er Pam Allen prepares to distribute meals at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
 ?? Jon Shapley / Staff photograph­er ?? Johnie Jones loads donated items into a truck Monday at MacGregor Park as part of the city’s virtual parade.
Jon Shapley / Staff photograph­er Johnie Jones loads donated items into a truck Monday at MacGregor Park as part of the city’s virtual parade.

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