How an organization responds to a disaster reveals a lot about what kind of place it is. These three Houston employers stepped up after the hurricane—not just for their employees, but for the community.
When employees at the drilling giant’s corporate office in Houston aren’t gathered around the company’s barbecue pit, training at the fitness center or grabbing coffee from the Naborhood Cafe, they are often found giving back. The company supports the MS150 and Susan G. Komen, and, since 2009, the Nabors Charitable Foundation has awarded more than $3 million in college scholarships to employees and their children. But this year, Nabors took its commitment to the community to another level.
“After Harvey, that’s where you’ll see the most remarkable efforts,” says Kim Hoover, corporate communications manager. She estimates that 10 percent of the company’s 1,200 employees along the Gulf Coast suffered severe damage after the storm. In its wake, CEO Anthony Petrello matched $173,622 in employee donations to the Nabors Disaster Relief Fund, while staffers rallied around each other and were given paid leave to assist in recovery efforts. And the company’s café cooked three hot meals a week for displaced families through the end of October.
After the hurricane hit, H-E-B leaped into action. The grocery chain’s mobile kitchens served more than 64,000 hot meals and delivered 75 truckloads—150,000 cases—of water plus 75,600 bags of ice. Pets weren’t forgotten, either, as the company donated 4,000 bags of cat and dog food. Meanwhile, H-E-B collected over $1.7 million in donations from customers, and chairman Charles Butt personally gave $5 million.
More personal Harvey stories, too, reflect the company’s character. There was the 25-year-old Friendswood worker who walked over a mile through chest-high water carrying his uniform over his head, a show of dedication that was captured in a photo that went viral. There were the seven employees at the Buffalo Speedway store, who waited so long to leave, they ended up stuck there for two nights, sleeping on cardboard and using the coats guys wear in the freezers as blankets. “On the third day, when they finally could get out and the store reopened,” company president/CEO Scott McClelland says, “they stayed to work their shifts.” And across the state, there were the 3,000 H-E-B employees who volunteered to drive to Houston and re-stock stores. “We told them we had enough help,” recalls McClelland, “and they said, ‘Well, I’m going anyway.’”
McClelland is proud of his employees, and of the city. “Once you get past the basic necessities of life and the need to get paid for what you do, I think all of us want the ability to make a difference at our jobs,” he says. “When people ask me about the hurricane, my standard answer is, ‘We saw the weather at its worst, but we saw Houstonians at their best.’”
“This was so far beyond what we’d ever done before,” Food Bank CEO Brian Green says, talking about the charity’s efforts to feed Houstonians left hungry by Harvey. He’s not kidding. In the first six weeks following the storm, employees and volunteers distributed three times the amount of food and cleaning supplies they normally would have: a whopping 39 million pounds of it, including almost 10,000 meals and over 4,000 snacks for kids between September 5 and 10 alone. And as of the end of October, they’d distributed over 35,000 lunches and 573,000 pounds of school supplies.
The 27,000 volunteers who participated in these herculean efforts were a huge help, but for weeks after the storm, the food bank’s 250 full-time employees were still stretched to the limit, working 12-hour shifts. “We literally had people coming from a shelter to work and then going back,” Green explains. “One woman literally lost her FEMA hotel because she was here so long.” That level of dedication speaks to both a desire to help and a strong belief in the food bank’s mission. “We do everything we can to make sure all of our employees’ needs are met so they can take care of the community.”