August 31, 2018 5 min read
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Donations to reputable relief organizations, such as the American Red Cross, are an excellent way to support the victims of natural disasters. But what can businesses do when these disasters happen literally in their own backyard?
Four small business owners and NFL star J.J. Watt deserve credit for the answers they provided during Texas’s devastating Hurricane Harvey in 2017. They’re great role models for the hurricane we’re now in.
Billions in damage
Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm that caused over $125 billion dollars in damage when it hit Texas on August 25, 2017, according to the National Hurricane Center. Eighty-eight people were killed and over 30,000 water rescues were conducted.
The National Hurricane Center report also said 300,000 structures were damaged, including homes, businesses and schools. Nearly everyone in southeastern Texas was affected by the devastation, and storm recovery is still ongoing.
Several large companies, like Walmart, Dell, Bass Pro Shops and Walgreens, have donated money and equipment to the relief efforts, but during the worst of the storm’s aftermath, many small businesses also stepped forward to help those in desperate need.
Jim McIngvale is most commonly known as Mattress Mack. He owns the Gallery Furniture Stores in Houston and when Harvey hit, he opened his showrooms and warehouses to everyone needing shelter.
The personal cost to him was over $30,000 per day, but McIngvale didn’t care. He had done the same thing when 2005’s Katrina hit and did not hesitate to help his own community when the need arose again. He sheltered storm victims in his stores, ensuring they had food, water and the basic items they needed. More recently, McIngvale donated an additional $80,000 to Hurricane Harvey victims, recognizing the continuing recovery efforts.
The Abry Brothers’ foundation repair business has served the Dallas and Houston areas for over 175 years and offers a modest college scholarship program to help students offset the cost of their education.
After Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the current owners and their employees worked with over 20 families to clean up trash and restore their homes, in an effort to bring some semblance of normalcy back to those neighbors’ lives. Once the waters receded, Arby Brothers donated employees’ skills, time and resources to repair cracked foundations and walls damaged from the wind and flooding. They made homes livable again so that people could return and rebuild their lives.
League City Family Dentistry
League City Family Dentistry has been a part of the community since 2005 and didn’t hesitate to help those in need after Harvey hit. It sponsored the Crazy Cajun Cookers, to go to various offices and serve over 1,000 free lunches to community members over a two-day period.
The company also worked with the Clear Falls Band to assure that those who came for food could also receive donated clothes, food, bedding, hygiene supplies, cleaning items and more. League City became a gathering area for people who needed support, encouragement, food and essentials that they couldn’t find elsewhere.
Sake Sushi Bar & Lounge
Two brothers, Phe Nguyen and Binh Nguyen, own the award-winning Sake Sushi Bar & Lounge in Port Arthur, Texas, and when Harvey hit, these men did what they do best — they cooked. Although personally affected by the hurricane, they chose to focus on the needs of their community and worked with staff and volunteers to prepare and serve over 1,000 meals to victims, first responders and other volunteers.
These humble men never asked for recognition or thanks but made a direct and positive impact on those around them.
Although born in Wisconsin, J.J. Watt has fully embraced the city where he is a defensive end for the Houston Texans. While sitting in a hotel room watching the devastation caused by Harvey, Watt tweeted a simple and heartfelt video asking people to donate toward relief efforts. His goal was to raise $200,000 and he started the process by personally donating the first $100,000.
Before it was over, Watt had raised over $37 million for relief efforts. The money has been used to help rebuild over 1,000 daycare and childcare centers, as well as deliver food, medicine and healthcare items to those in need. In February, Watt was named Walter Payton Man of the Year for his Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
When a community faces physical and/or emotional devastation, many people open their wallets to support relief efforts, and this is a generous gesture. Still, it is often those living and working amid the destruction who have the most immediate impact.
In the Houston area, these small community businesses found ways to serve their friends, neighbors and strangers impacted by Harvey; and their efforts had a profound effect. Even a short tweet by an NFL player made a huge difference. These mostly unsung heroes have gone on with their lives, but their generosity will never be forgotten.