Amarillo knows Tremaine Brown and knows him well. Locals may not recognize, however, the name of his nonprofit: The Vessel of Humanity and Compassion. Brown isn’t new to community service. He’s prepared hot meals for thousands of children, warmed them with winter coats and gloves, and supplied families with Christmas gifts for more than a decade.
But in recent years, he formalized his charitable work under an official 501(c)(3) designation as The Vessel of Humanity and Compassion, realizing it was easier for donors to give to a formal organization rather than to an individual.
“Once I saw it was going to get bigger and bigger and [serving the community] became my mission, I wanted to put in place a watchdog, if you will,” says Tremaine, who with his mom, Charlotte Brown, is proprietor of Shi Lee’s Barbecue & Soul Food Cafe. “You want to build trust on one side and your integrity on the other side.”
Brown’s reputation in the community is already built. At Palo Duro High School, he was an honors student and heavily recruited linebacker who played for the University of Texas. But most kids in the community know him because he gave them a backpack last school year, or because they ate one of the 90,000 free lunches he gave away during the early weeks of the 2020 pandemic.
The fall is one of the busiest seasons for Tremaine and his organization. October brings his eighth annual community “Trunk or Treat” celebration at Bones Hooks Park. He and his volunteers will hand out candy, while also giving away brand-new coats, hats and gloves. “It’s a great marriage with having all the kids present [for Halloween candy], and then having coats available for them to try on. It takes them into the winter,” he says.
Brown prepares hundreds of family dinners in November and December. These include main courses, all the sides and even dessert to serve a family of eight, he says, “delivered in time for a nice Thanksgiving meal and then a repeat effort around Christmas.”
December brings the organization’s 11th annual Christmas Toy Drive. Local businesses will have Vessel-branded boxes available to the public for toy donations. In addition to toys, winter gear, and candy donations, the organization always accepts financial gifts and loves volunteers for the fall events.
Beyond meeting local needs, Brown hopes his work lowers the city’s temperature. How much crime or violence can be prevented by giving people clothing, a hot meal or a helping hand? “We want Amarillo to be on the news for good things,” he says. “We want scholars and CEOs talking about the love they received here in Amarillo. That speaks volumes.”
Volunteer or donate to Brown’s organization at beblessedbythevessel.org.