Second Place, News Story, Associated Church Press
By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service
HOUSTON — Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale was kicking himself the morning after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, for closing his furniture stores while some people could still shop.
Known to millions in America’s fourth-largest city because he stars in his own zany television commercials, McIngvale had closed all three of his Gallery Furniture locations on Aug. 26.
“A lot of these small retailers up and down the street were open, and they were doing a lot of business,” said the fast-talking entrepreneur, whose antics have included promising to refund customers’ money if the Astros win this year’s World Series.
Little did McIngvale know that Houston quickly would become a disaster zone — and that he, driven by his faith, would emerge as one of the battered city’s most beloved heroes.
On the Sunday after the storm hit land, the 66-year-old entrepreneur rose early to attend Mass at Houston’s Assumption Catholic Church.
But he couldn’t get out of his driveway. The storm that would dump a record-breaking 50-plus inches of rain on the Bayou City had him blocked in. He was stuck at his house for three hours before he could leave.
The flooded cars on the freeway made him realize the extent of the disaster, as did the “hundreds of calls and emails and texts of people wanting us to rescue them” that greeted him at his original Gallery Furniture location.
When he settled into the store, McIngvale — who can display both his cantankerous and compassionate natures nearly simultaneously — pivoted from selling furniture to rescuing and housing fellow Texans trapped by floodwaters.
His faith, he said, moved him to help.
Religion News Service is a national wire service whose media partners include The Associated Press, USA Today and the Washington Post.