Blog

Wholesalers Pull Together

Raymond Hill - Friday, November 17, 2017

The 2017 hurricane season was unprecedented, but so was the outpouring of support from all those affected in the distribution industry.
 
It’s been a trying couple of months with natural disasters from coast to coast. Although we, as an industry, have always pulled together to endorse the plumbing, heating, cooling and piping community, I’ve been especially moved by the show of support in the face of grief and turmoil, too.
 
With Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate hitting U.S. land with such strong forces in a short period of time, combined damages can reach well beyond $300 billion; it’s still too early to know for sure. Even more severe – the impact on human life.
The rebuilding of our infrastructure, as well as businesses affected in our industry, will take time. What we do in the meantime, however – how we take care of each other – will play a big role in how we bounce back as an industry, and as a nation.
 
A prime example of that effort is evident in HARDI Unity (www.hardinet.org/hardi-unity/), a website designed to help HARDI members and their employees who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. If you belong to a HARDI member’s community and are looking for a way to welcome any assistance or donations, you can set up a crowdfunding campaign that HARDI Unity can share with the rest of the HARDI community.
To date, five members – Johnston Community, Johnson Supply, Daikin/Goodman, Coburn Supply Co., and Century A/C Supply – are participating in the HARDI Unity effort, and have set up accounts for anyone looking to donate.
 
I spoke to Century A/C Supply and Coburn Supply Co., both have locations in the Houston area, to find out more about their fundraising efforts.
The outpouring of support described by both companies is nothing short of tremendous. From the co-workers who helped one another to the products ordered for repairs — nothing and no one was left behind.
 
Century A/C Supply
 
Before the Hurricane made landfall, everyone at Century A/C Supply worked hard to ensure the Houston locations were prepared for the possibility of flooding. They moved products to higher shelves, rearranged the yard to avoid commercial equipment from flooding, tested the sump pumps in the truck wells, and much more.
But they couldn’t prepare for the devastation their employees would soon endure.
 
Eleven employees from the company’s Houston location sustained damages ranging from flooding of their cars and homes to losing everything.
Director of Marketing and Information, Renata Morgan, says that within 24 hours of roads being opened, work crews were well on their way to saving employees.
“We ordered more dehumidifiers for the relief efforts and aided by creating a PayIt2 account,” she says.
 
Volunteers stepped up to help by removing wet floors and sheetrock out of homes before mold could start to grow.
 
Through the PayIt2 account, shared by HARDI Unity, the company was able to hit its first, second, and third goals of fundraising, with 100 percent of funds collected going toward helping its employees remedy damages from flooding in their homes.
If you’d like to contribute, visit bit.do/CenturyACSupply.
 
Coburn Supply
 
Headquartered in Beaumont, Texas, Coburn Supply was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. Approximately 26 employees were affected. One of the main concerns for the company was how to get people out, and how to bounce back.
 
Michael Maloney, director of marketing, explains, “We revamped our emergency procedure as a result of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina at both the branch and corporate level.”
As part of this step-by-step program, Coburn enlisted the help of one of its most tenured employees, Jim Fuller, vice president and general manager, to essentially be in charge of the recovery operation.
As part of the plan, Fuller had teams of 15 to 16 employees who volunteered for an entire week. The work included demolition of homes. As soon as the water went down, the teams were on site working tirelessly to begin the drying process as quickly as possible.
 
“The storm had not settled down, and we were already in position to move as soon as the roads were passable. When we went in to the first locations, Beaumont, Texas was still flooding and sometimes it was hard to get there. We had to take alternate pass ways,” he says.
 
“As part of Coburn Supply’s disaster relief program,” says Fuller, “a notice was sent out to people in the company who normally volunteer, which includes anybody with trucks, power tools, and anything else they could use to rescue those who couldn’t get out of their homes.”
The GoFundMe account, Coburn Cares, shared by HARDI Unity, has raised more than double its goal, with all funds going directly to aide employees affected by the hurricane. To help, visit bit.do/Coburn.
 
Thinking on your feet
 
We reached out to a few of our friends in the Houston area, including WOI, Inc. and Newmans Valve. Thankfully, the businesses were spared.
Sheryl Michalak, president of WOI, says, “Luckily, we didn’t get any flooding at headquarters, but the process of helping employees in need quickly started.”
 
Natural disasters are nothing new, and we’ve learned to deal with them in a variety of different ways. Though there are measures we can take to improve our infrastructure and the foundation of our buildings, unfortunately natural disasters bring with them devastation to property. That’s material, and although the damage hurts, it can be rebuilt.
What’s been evident in the wake of the back-to-back natural disasters is the work all of you have put in to supporting and taking care of each other. From the crowdfunding initiatives and support networks, to volunteering time and money, it’s been a true honor to be part of this community.
 
Fuller says it’s as simple as following a disaster recovery plan, “it’s what you need, how many people you need to help, and you just organize those teams and put them together. The primary thing is to have a plan.”
 
As many of you are aware, we’re not just dealing with hurricanes, we now have fires and earthquakes, as well as human threats to contend with. As I said at the beginning of this article, it’s been a trying couple of months, but the outpouring of support in our industry has been key in getting through all of it.
 
The recovery efforts still persist, and there are a number of industry initiatives aimed at aiding all those affected. In addition to HARDI Unity, take a look at the MCAA Disaster Relief Fund (bit.do/MCAAFund) and the PHCC Disaster Relief Fund (bit.do/PHCCFund).