Dick Daugird built his insurance office to resemble a lighthouse so his business would stand out. Little did he know back then that the building would become a symbol of something bigger than his business.
Soon after he opened the new office building, Daugird got a phone call from the local organizers of the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association’s telethon asking whether he would host an event. Daugird and his wife, Horacene, figured it wasn’t bad business to do some charity work, too.
That event in 1984 launched a movement that today is known as the Lighthouse Charity Team.
The nonprofit group, with teams in Friendswood and Galveston, cooks at hundreds of charitable events each year. For that work, the Daugirds are The Daily News’ Citizens of the Year.
It’s the first time that a couple has been named Citizen of the Year by the newspaper. The Daugirds and others were honored at a recent reception.
“We borrowed a trailer, and that was our first-ever event,” Daugird said. “When we saw three little kids in wheelchairs and knew that they would never get better, that sparked the idea that we should do more to help people.”
Because that event 29 years ago drew 300 volunteers, Daugird saw an opportunity to fill a void in the community, he said.
“Next thing we know we were doing events for Boy Scouts and churches and other nonprofits,” he said. “It didn’t take us long, and we found people who wanted to help. They believed, like we do, that there’s more to life than chasing the dollar.”
The Daugirds went to their credit union and borrowed money to build the first trailer and formed the Lighthouse Charity Team. Its logo is a drawing of Daugird’s office on FM 528 in Friendswood.
The concept for the team was simple. Charitable organizations looking to raise funds could bring in the team to handle all the cooking and the only expense would be the food and general supplies.
Through the years, the Daugirds added more
equipment with most of it built by team members. That includes large serving trailers, custom shrimp/crawfish boilers and smaller food service trailers.
“We provide all the labor and equipment,” Daugird said. “All the money raised goes to the charity.”
And not just to nonprofits.
During the aftermath of hurricanes Rita and Ike, team members served up food to volunteer workers and first responders and helped host the Thanksgiving meal in San Leon after Ike.
After Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of New Orleans residents arrived in Galveston, the Lighthouse Charity Team was serving up hot meals at the Red Cross shelter at Moody Memorial Methodist Church on the island.
When fires devastated Central Texas, the Daugirds loaded up the crew and set up in Bastrop to feed the thousands of firefighters who were there to help battle the blaze. They’ve served up meals at the Texas City-La Marque Jaycees crawfish boil, the Dickinson Red, White and Bayou festival, and the Galveston Rotary Club crawfish boil and helped raise funds for organizations across the county, including the Galveston County Food Bank, the Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce, Yaga’s Wild Game Cook-off, the Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department, Galveston Police Department’s Blue Santa program, Wounded Warriors and Galveston’s Lemonade Day, to name just a few.
“We average about 100 events a year for the past 10 years,” Daugird said.
The Lighthouse Charity Team has about 200 members, divided between its original chapter in Friendswood and Galveston. Recently Del Papa Distributing Co., one of the team’s longtime sponsors, donated an unused building in Galveston to house the Lighthouse equipment and serve as a meeting place.
“I can’t say enough about what Dick and Horacene have done for us,” Galveston police officer Joey Quiroga said. He heads the department’s Blue Santa program.
“They are the finest people I know and never know what it means to say no. They are true angels among us.”
The help isn’t limited to groups.
“We’ve held events for individuals who need medical bills paid for or a family who lost everything to a fire,” Dick Daugird said. “We help individuals ... groups. It doesn’t matter; as long as there are people needing help, we will provide it.”
That included stepping in and feeding the family and friends and firefighters standing watch for the Bryan firefighters who were severely burned in a nightclub fire in March. As the surviving firefighters received treatment at the University of Texas Medical Branch burn unit, Lighthouse Charity Team members cooked meals for their families, and volunteers were on hand to help the families with basic needs.
Daugird estimated that his team served more than 2,500 meals over a month.
“Dick and Horacene have demonstrated service beyond self,” said Mark Davis, the co-founder of the Galveston County Food Bank, who left that organization last year and signed on to help the Lighthouse Charity Team with its mission. “(They) have inspired thousands to do the same, meeting the mission of ‘People Helping People,’ impacting and expanding generations.”
For Horacene, the ability to inspire a younger generation — including her three grandchildren — to find ways to serve the community, is the ultimate payoff of being involved with the team.
“I see it with the children of our team members who come out and help,” she said. “They are learning the valuable lesson to help others before yourself.
“It makes you feel good inside. When you see the faces of the people you are helping, it makes you whole.”