by Jenny King, LD ’16
In late August, as Hurricane Harvey was heading toward the Texas Gulf Coast, individuals, businesses and nonprofits in Dallas were already preparing to respond with support after the storm. A number of Leadership Dallas alumni have served as critical leaders for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Here is a profile of several such alumni who continue to make us proud.
Gulf Coast Response with Oncor’s Mutual Assistance Teams
Lawrence Ward, LD ’16, directed Oncor’s work to help repair the electric infrastructure of the Gulf Coast region. His team of 184 employees and contractors was deployed to Rockport-Fulton, near Corpus Christi, from August 28 to September 11, and provided mutual assistance (MA) to the local electric utility by clearing debris, and repairing transmission and distribution lines, utility power poles, and related equipment. The goal was power restoration to approximately 5,200 customers in their assigned repair area. Power allowed critical emergency response agencies and businesses, including FEMA, Homeland Security, local law enforcement, water plants, gas stations and grocery stores, to better support displaced residents.
Among the safety challenges his team faced were driving routes/conditions, storm debris, snakes, alligators, staging area traffic, mosquitoes, ants and high water, just to name a few. Lawrence left Dallas early on Sunday, August 27, to establish the logistics for his team, which joined him two days later. They worked 16-18 hour days as the repair needs were so extensive.
“The destruction down there was unbelievable… continue to include these residents on your prayers list,” says Lawrence.
Because infrastructure damage varies per storm, Oncor’s MA teams are self-sustaining. They deploy with trailers of generators and supplies to help with repairs, and can refill as needed. They also deploy with support trailers containing bunk beds, showers/bathrooms, and food/eating space until local hotel space and restaurant service can be procured. Harvey’s impact was so great that on day two of repairs Oncor flew big rig drivers overnight to Dallas so they could drive down 18 wheelers full of additional supplies to support repairs.
Mass Care Task Force: Food, Shelter, Volunteers and Operations for Hurricane Evacuees at the Dallas Convention Center
In Dallas, preparation for serving evacuees from a massive weather disaster, such as Hurricane Harvey, has been in place via the Mass Care Task Force (MCTF) since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita 12 years ago.
Leadership Dallas alumni serve as half of the CEO leadership of this unique collective impact initiative. VolunteerNow CEO Tammy Richards, LD ’08, and North Texas Food Bank CEO Trisha Cunningham, LD ’09, work with their peers at the Red Cross and Salvation Army on disaster preparation and response planning with philanthropic support from the Caruth Foundation/Communities Foundation of Texas and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, other sponsors, and the resources of each organization. Together, these four nonprofits have created an emergency response plan approved and supported by law enforcement to feed, house, care for and deploy volunteers to support those who may come to Dallas after being displaced by weather events.
Since August 27, the MCTF has worked nonstop to coordinate with the City of Dallas, various law enforcement agencies, pet shelters and pet foster groups, and area nonprofits to support Harvey evacuees in the main convention center shelter and several satellite shelters.
“Through the Mass Care Task Force, we were ready for a catastrophic weather event such as this, and it is gratifying to know the nourishment and social services we provided directly helped those displaced by Hurricane Harvey,” says Trisha.
The MCTF has distributed some 200,000 pounds of ready-to-eat meals, snacks and beverages, and its social services staff helped hundreds of evacuees apply for food benefits. It has also coordinated more than 1,500 background-checked volunteers to serve individuals and families displaced by Hurricane Harvey and has fielded inquiries from many thousands more.
Imagine setting up a temporary town in the convention center and providing it with food, supplies and support services for thousands of newly homeless people, families and pets.
“The greater Dallas community has responded with such heart and soul to help our neighbors to the south. It is hard work to run shelters and these volunteers have been critical to our successful operations,” says Tammy.
North Texas has a heart for service, as shown by the volunteers, resources rallied, and our community response to welcoming those displaced by Hurricane Harvey.
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas: Funding and Donations with National Help from The Today Show
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas continues to be creative in identifying and responding to community needs, including those created by Hurricane Harvey. Led by McDermott-Templeton President and CEO Jennifer Hilton Sampson, LD ’03, the organization established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to raise money to support storm evacuees in North Texas seeking shelter and long-term assistance.
In addition, United Way teamed with The Today Show to kick off a week of Harvey relief efforts.
“We were honored to work with Jeff Rossen and ‘The Today Show’ team to help our Texas neighbors in need,” says Sampson. “North Texans responded with their hands and hearts as volunteers were able to collect, sort and load donations that filled two moving trucks full of much-needed supplies sent to Houston that same day.”
United Way has also created a comprehensive resources page on its website that identifies the many ways North Texans can volunteer, donate, and otherwise support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts at www.unitedwaydallas.org/harveyrelief/.
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