Houston Dynamo FC Defender Zarek Valentin raised $18,300 in food and donations for the Houston Food Bank. On Friday he donated the food products and money given by members of the community, club owners, and Dynamo Charities.
It all started when Houston’s ABC 13 TV station and Dynamo Charities planed a food drive at BBVA Stadium on November 28th to help with ABC 13’s Share Your holidays Food Collection Campaign. The club reached out to staff and players to see who could help collect food the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That is when the newly extended defender stepped up to do a little more.
Valentin decided he would use his position to raise money for the cause. He posted on his social channels a message to donate money so that he could purchase as much food as possible to donate to the food bank.
“Happy Thanksgiving! As some of you know, there have been massive food lines in Houston and all around the country. These difficult times have made me even more grateful for what I have and inspired to try and help!
I’ll be working with the Dynamo collecting and donating food items to the Houston Food Bank. My Venmo has $300 and if anyone feels in the mood to donate, see below. I’m taking all the donations to buy non-perishable food items to start our drive on Saturday.
For those in Houston, I’ll be at BBVA Stadium between 9-12 this Saturday Nov, 28th. I’ll match donations with signed team gear (once the squad is back in town) Let’s help out those in need”
Shortly after Zarek’s post, his Venmo account started to fill up with donations.
Within six hours more than $3,000 had been donated. After 48 hours Valentin had raised $5,480 for the Houston Food Bank.
Valentin, his wife Liz and Dynamo teammate Michael Salazar went to Costco on the Friday after Thanksgiving to spend as much as they could on nonperishable foods. Using $3,300 of the raised money on food provide more than 6,300 meals, there was excess raised funds, and it was decided that amount would be given as a monetary donation to the Food Bank.
After the drive on Saturday Zarek had received a total of $5,627.70 in donations for the drive. Owners Jake Silverstein and Gabriel Brener saw the work Zarek was doing for those in need in Houston and took action as well. Each of them matched the funds raised by Zarek for a total of $16,881 money raised.
“I was so moved by the initiative and leadership that Zarek was showing,” Silverstein said. “Reaching out and engaging in the community at a time that makes such a difference to so many people, that I really just wanted to support him and support the good works he’s doing and let him know that we see who he is and the role he’s playing in this Club and in Houston more broadly.”
Dynamo Charities donated another $1,419 to make a total donation of $18,300. After the $3,300 in food bought for donation, $15,000 was left as a monetary donation from Zarek, Brenner, Silverstein, Dynamo Charities and those who donated to Zarek’s impromptu fundraiser.
“What started out as a spontaneous tweet after a conversation with my wife turned out to be something magical,” Valentin said after delivering the food donations to the Houston Food Bank on Friday. “2020 has been extremely difficult for so many and to have the Houston and MLS community rally around this was inspiring. The first five thousand we raised completely surpassed any expectation we had. To then have the owners triple it shows the Dynamo’s commitment to our Houston community. Now that this was such a success, I’m hoping we can make this a yearly tradition!”
Silverstein praised the defender, “It’s the least that we can do, and I’m humbled and grateful that Zarek took the initiative to put this together and that we’re able to be supportive of his efforts.”
If you would like to donate to the Houston Food Bank you can find information on how to do so at HoustonFoodBank.org.