Building a Future for Distributors and Dealers of Building Products

Volume 44,  Issue 8                                        October  2005

Building Products Companies Help with Hurricane Relief Efforts
by Samantha Carpenter and Megan Headley

Rain is pouring down, the wind is blowing, debris is colliding and hitting the house, the roof is creaking, the windows are rattling—these are some of the sounds one hears when a hurricane passes over. But a description through words does not give justice to the pure terror one feels while experiencing a hurricane’s power.

The lives of those who live on the Gulf Coast in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have certainly been changed. The destruction was widespread and varied depending on location.

Katrina struck Louisiana on August 29 with 140 mile-per-hour winds, while slamming into the coasts of neighboring Mississippi, Alabama and Western Florida.

A 30-foot storm surge in Mississippi wiped away 90 percent of the buildings along the Mississippi coast at Biloxi and Gulfport.

New Orleans seemed to have gotten less damage that anticipated, but the waters of Lake Pontchartrain tore holes in the levee system that protects the below-sea-level city and flooded it.

Some places in New Orleans were covered in 20-foot deep water.

Many people did evacuate before the hurricane hit, but many in New Orleans did not. A week-and-a-half after the hurricane’s initial impact, and rescuers were still finding survivors to evacuate. The death toll is believed to be in the thousands.

Many people around the country have opened their homes, businesses and churches to refugees of Hurricane Katrina.

An Outpouring of Support
Kenner, La.-based The Southern Pine Council (SPC), which is part of the Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA), is one organization that has seen a great outpouring of relief from member companies and business contacts.

The organization has 18 staff members, 17 for which are accounted, but all members evacuated, and the one missing is thought to be with family, according to Kim Drew, spokesperson for the SPC/SFPA.

The staff is scattered throughout the Southeast and is in the process of setting up temporary offices. 

Drew said the organization’s office would be up and running in a week or two, adding that it will be months before the staff will be able to move back into their office and homes. Kenner is approximately 10 miles from New Orleans and not within the levee system. Homes and businesses in the Kenner area were flooded, and while the water got “only” 10 inches high, these structures are uninhabitable. A week after the hurricane, one SPC/SFPA staff member was able to see how much damage was done to his home and there was already mold growing on the walls.

Drew says that everyone who works for SPC/SFPA has family that is helping and that the organization’s payroll is up and running so everyone is getting paid.

“The staff is really lucky. In the next week or so, I’ll know better [how SHELTER readers can help],” Drew says.

The outpouring of help from members has been amazing, according to Drew, who said that one SPC/SFPA member has given his guesthouse to two staff members to stay. Other members have given computers, laptops and phones.

A Truck-Load of Supplies
Symmetrical Stair Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla., has gotten involved in the hurricane relief effort.

In an e-mail sent on September 2, chief executive officer AJ Cheponis said, “Thanks to everyone’s help, we are making a difference and saving lives ... Our initial thoughts of a box truck or two filled with hurricane supplies have been slightly altered due to the overwhelming generosity of clients, business partners and friends. In less than 24 hours, we have completely filled one full-size tractor trailer, and we are currently arranging for a second tractor trailer as well as our initially planned box truck.”

Retailers Reach Out
The nation’s home-improvement retailers are also donating materials to help with hurricane relief efforts.

Atlanta-based The Home Depot had 90 stores in the hurricane strike zone. Ten were closed following Katrina, with six already back online, two expected to reopen at the end of the week (as of press time) and two located directly in New Orleans with no timeline for reopening.

In the coming weeks and months, The Home Depot will transport and house thousands of associates to the Gulf states region to provide additional support to stores and communities affected by the hurricane, according to Yancey Casey, spokesperson for the company.

It is helping associates through the Homer Fund, an internal charity that is offering grants to the affected associates. So far approximately 1,000 grants have been offered, some of them upwards of $700,000, Casey said.

The Home Depot Foundation and The Home Depot will be working with its suppliers to donate additional materials, such as tarps, flashlights and bottled water, to emergency management organizations.

The company has also provided a direct cash donation of $1.5 million to support the relief and rebuilding efforts of areas devastated by the hurricane; a direct donation of $400,000 to emergency management organizations; a donation of $600,000 to support long-term rebuilding efforts in the affected communities; and a donation of $500,000 to non-profit organizations that produce and rehabilitate affordable housing for low- to moderate-income homeowners to assist with the repair and rebuilding efforts.

North Wilkesboro, N.C.-based The Lowe’s Companies is also donating to relief efforts by matching customer donations up to $2 million made to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

At press time, Lowe’s customers have donated more than $820,000 to disaster relief efforts through the company’s customer donation program.

Many millwork companies are questioning how they can help those affected by the hurricane. (AMD members can read the sidebar on the previous page to see how they can help.)

Drew says people who have been devastated by this storm will most need cash and recommends giving it to a reputable organization, like the American Red Cross.
In the aftermath of such a catastrophe, companies may be able to help those that most need it. 

“[It’s] been an uplifting experience to witness the huge hearts of so many people and companies,” Cheponis said. 

Samantha Carpenter is editor and Megan Headley is assistant editor of SHELTER magazine.

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