Elton Roy Johnson smiles beside his shoe shining stand in the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Story and photos by Chris Genin, American Red Cross Volunteer

The Crowne Plaza River Oaks hotel is conveniently located next to the American Red Cross office in Houston. Due to the proximity between the two locations, the Crowne Plaza sees a lot of Red Cross traffic as workers deploy in and out of Texas – in fact, there are more than a few who have stories of climbing up-teen flights of stairs during the city-wide power outage amidst Hurricane Harvey’s landfall.

A staple sight on Crowne Plaza’s first floor is a shoe shiner’s stand.

Elton Roy Johnson, a veteran of the U.S. Army, has watched Red Cross disaster workers pass through the Crowne Plaza as he works his post at the shoe shine stand.

“Seeing Red Cross volunteers come from all over the world to be here for my community is so heartwarming,” Elton said.

Elton’s 12 years of military service taught him how to give back. He’s travelled across the world and declared he has “never seen anything as strong as the Red Cross. I truly appreciate all the Red Cross does.”

He continued, “It has been tremendously joyful to see Red Cross workers, how they dedicate themselves, how strong they are and how they show they care. Every day they show true concern for me and ask how I’m doing.”

When the storm hit, Elton was in the process of moving from a house to an apartment. Like it did for many, Hurricane Harvey slowed things down on both ends of Elton’s move, his future apartment building was badly damaged and closure of the sale on his home was complicated.

As he dealt with various issues, Elton applied for and received $400 in the financial assistance from the Red Cross and used it to buy food. He is also very thankful to his employer, the Crowne Plaza, for accommodating him as he transitions between living arrangements.

“With the Red Cross’ help I made it through.”

Not only did the organization provide financial assistance, but Red Cross workers supported his shoe shine stand.

After 40 years of shining shoes, Elton knows a thing or two about getting something to sparkle.

With a gleam in his eye, he declared “With the help of the Red Cross, we can make the whole world shine again.”

To get involved in the American Red Cross relief efforts in Houston or your local area, visit