As often happens, people stopped Magic Johnson every few feet as he made his way through the facility he toured Monday morning. These folks were more than fans, though.
They were volunteers in a hangar near West Angeles Church, pausing while separating donation items as part of a drive to help the victims of Tropical Storm Harvey. Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations, is partnering with entertainer Stevie Wonder and West Angeles Church to help organize a donation drive seeking toiletries, diapers, women's sanitary products, underwear, water, nonperishable food and new clothing for men, women and children.
"We want to just tell them that we love them and we support them and we know they need not only funds but also items," Johnson said. "… We really just are happy to be part of trying to make people down in Houston feel better and show them that we care."
Donations are being accepted until Sept. 14 at 3600 Crenshaw Blvd.. The collected items will then be taken to a facility in Houston by UPS trucks, whose donation Johnson secured.
"We assure you we are reaching out to the impacted individuals who need our help," said Charles Blake, the church's presiding bishop. "This money is not going to go to private hands, some unknown place. … We're going to bring all of our stuff from our 20 reception centers and we're gonna provide it for the people who need clothing. Many of them did not have a chance to bring anything when they rushed out of their homes."
Blake spoke of Hurricane Katrina's devastation in 2005 and how important outside help became to its survivors. He also noted that California will need to rely on the kindness of other communities when a major earthquake impacts the area.
Harvey was the strongest storm to hit Texas since 2004. It damaged several Gulf Coast communities, including Houston, which experienced severe flooding. The storm killed dozens of people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.
Johnson is a member of West Angeles Church and often lends his name and assistance to its endeavors. By 10 a.m., when Johnson, Blake and other organizers toured the facility, about 50 cars had stopped by with donations.
"God has blessed all of us," Johnson told a gathered crowd. "Look at us. We're all healthy. We all have our homes, we have things. Now we gotta just give back and help someone else."