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A Kid Care delivery. people, or a big house and not feed people.” Their monthly mortgage was around $300. Between Hurt’s well-paying job, Carol’s now part-time work as an RN, and a third source of incomeoverseeing nutrition levels at “day homes” \(day for the Texas Department of Agriculturethey had enough money to live simply but well, and to begin a systematic feeding program, paid for at first out of their own pockets. They began with a nearby apartment complex, where Carol says they found “ThirdWorld conditions.” Working from their kitchen table, they bought food, made sandwiches, and distributed them in the complex to hungry kids and adults. At that point, the Porters say they had an experience that deepened their desire to do their charitable work without government help. In the mid-‘8os they won a government contract to run a summer food program in Houston. Carol chafed at the bureaucratic restrictions. “You had to put milk in front of the child whether they wanted it or not,” she says. “But a lot of African-American kids don’t drink milk, and I wasn’t allowed to send the milk home, so I wound up having to throw milk away.” They also weren’t allowed to offer food to adults, no matter how hungry. Around that same time, Hurt was noticing how few men they saw living in the apartments they served. Welfare, they believed, was a major part of the problem: Mothers couldn’t collect if there was a man in the house; that, in the Porters’ view, was encouraging fatherless households. Hurt asked his vendors and food donors to offer low-skill jobs, such as night-watchman positions, for neighborhood men who wanted to work. His efforts weren’t exactly systematic. He responded to opportunities as they presented themselves. A man wanted to start a lawn-mowing service to support his family, so Kid Care \(the name they’d given themselves for mower. The man repaid the loan, then returned as a Kid Care volunteer. As their efforts branched out, the Porters weren’t keeping careful records. They were simply running from crisis to crisis. Carol estimates that after five years, they had gone through smo,000 of their own money, including an inheritance from Carol’s mother. They’d gone through five used cars, they say, due to their busy delivery routes. They’d taken out most of their furniture so they could plug in more refrigerators and freezers. They needed support. But the Porters, both “fiscally conservative” Republicans after Hurt converted from being a self-described “liberal Democrat,” still didn’t want to go to the government. “That’s when we started seeking publicity,” Carol says. Norm Uhl, a reporter for the local CBS affiliate, began covering the Porters in the early ‘9os. Uhl, now the news director for the Houston ISD, remembers seeing kids “eating like they hadn’t seen food in days. ,’ Donations and volunteers started pouring in as the media gave Kid Care gleaming PR. Carol didn’t get a salary as Kid Care took off, but Hurt started getting $25,000 a year. That allowed him to cut back on his metalworking hours, but still left the Porters enough savings that they could send their son abroad for a summer in Spain. Carol wanted poor children to have similar horizon-expanding experiences. Using donations and grants, the Porters soon had kids going to summer camps and attending the opera and ballet. Uhl, who had become a Kid Care volunteer, remembers chaperoning a field trip to the Houston ballet. “A fouror-five-year-old African-American girl was sitting on my lap,” he says. “I asked, `Would you like to do this [dance] when you grow up?” Uhl says the girl answered, “I can’t. I’m black.” Which is when Houston Ballet’s principle dancer, Lauren Anderson, bounded onto the stage. Anderson was the first African-American woman to be a major U.S. dance company’s female lead. The girl was delighted, Uhl says, and told him, “Maybe I can do this.” The Porters also arranged for kids to dine at one of Houston’s finest restaurants, Cafe Annie. While serving the kids, Cafe Annie staff members who’d grown up hard but now earned upwards of $8o,000 a year as waiters, counseled them on opportunities in the restaurant business. 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 18, 2009