As the nation watched one of the country’s largest cities under siege from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey, many felt helpless while others sprang into action. For example, lighting manufacturer LED Inspirations (LEDI) is based in Houston and witnessed the incredible damage first-hand.
“Several employees of ours lost their homes,” noted William Senofsky of LEDI. “As a company that considers our employees to be family, we began texting one another to figure out who was being affected and needed help. Several of us from our company got into boats and began rescuing people [in the flooded streets].”
After spending hours commandeering boats to rescue stranded folks and making sure employees and their families were safe, it was time to turn their attention to the LEDI offices. “We were going to try to swim there originally, but we thought the better of it and ended up taking our kayaks instead,” Senofsky said. The facility was under 16 inches of water at the time and product needed to be moved off the floor. “[All available] employees came together to help us,” he stated.
With product secure, the LEDI team returned to their community efforts and began volunteering at local shelters and leading prayer circles.
In the days that followed, the LEDI employees met up at the headquarters to help the Senofsky family get the offices back into shape. “Our employees worked long hours doing demolition on our offices [to repair damaged drywall and floors]. Meanwhile they were all doing volunteer work in the community as well,” Senofsky remarked. “I’m so proud of our team. They worked all hours of each day, helping to get our offices ready and helping our customers. We were proud to show both our customers and our community love.”
Meanwhile, other Houston-area lighting veterans, such as Don Gressett of Carol’s Lighting, were in contact with one another. “I started checking on the status of other friends in the path of the destruction of Harvey, and phoned our Craftmade rep John Boyd of Ralph Flores & Associates to see if he and his family were okay,” Gressett stated. Boyd assured his customer that his family was fine, and as the conversation unfolded Boyd admitted that he could not bear watching the TV reports on the floods and was compelled to spring into action. Boyd took out his flat-bottom 60-horsepower boat and, for many hours afterwards – with the help of a like-minded stranger he met along the way – used his boat to rescue more than 50 people from the flood waters. Boyd and his new friend then joined with the “Cajun Navy” from Louisiana to assist in more rescues.
Indeed Gressett, Boyd, and Senofsky were not alone in being impressed by their community coming together to help strangers in need at a time of crisis. Within a week, several manufacturers and organizations began mobilizing relief efforts to help Houston’s flood victims.
The Dallas Market Center (DMC) launched a comprehensive assistance program called DMC Cares to help its neighbors and customers impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The DMC’s goal is to raise $1 million in support – via financial and product donations – for storm victims and is encouraging its exhibitors and attendees to join in these efforts.
“This catastrophe is unprecedented, but I am confident that the supportive spirit we create and the actions we are taking together will help our neighbors today and tomorrow,” said Cindy Morris, President & CEO of DMC. “We call upon our industry to unite and to support DMC Cares in whatever way possible.”
The DMC immediately established a collection station in the World Trade Center for gathering new underwear and socks, toiletries, baby diapers/wipes/formula, and other necessities requested by Dallas County to support Houston-area shelters. Next, the DMC launched a large-scale clothing drive to gather apparel of all types and sizes from showrooms and manufacturers that were then distributed to designated organization partners in charge of reaching local and regional individuals impacted by the hurricane.
Over the long-term, DMC aims to support the recovery and rebuilding efforts by encouraging home décor and lighting product donations from exhibitors. These donations will be stored while the DMC makes arrangements with local and regional agencies for distribution. For shipping information and drop-off details, exhibitors can visit www.dallasmarketcenter.com/dmccares.
DMC has also initiated Operation ReStore, a program that helps affected retailers and reps in the region. These customers will be eligible for a special travel package to help them attend trade events at Dallas Market Center. Customers interested in this program should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, lighting manufacturers have organized their own relief efforts. New York-based WAC Lighting has implemented a three-pronged plan to support relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“We have all been watching with painfully familiar heartache the devastation that slowly drowned folks out of their homes,” explained Shelley Wald, President & Owner of WAC Lighting. “Many members of our industry have reached out inquiring how together we can help our friends, customers, and neighbors. To help those in need, we have developed a comprehensive program.”
In cooperation with the New York Blood Center, WAC Lighting has sponsored a community blood drive to replenish blood products that are being sent to people in need in the hurricane-devastated areas of Texas, with a target goal of 200 donors.
According to Wald, costs for basic necessities have skyrocketed because of supply and demand problems in the area, making it even more difficult for people living on a tight budget to access food and water. To help, the WAC management team, reps, and employees have come together to raise essential funds for the Houston Food Bank.
WAC has also shipped 10,000 manually powered emergency flashlights to local emergency shelters and friends to distribute where batteries are scarce and electricity even scarcer. Each flashlight will be inscribed with a message of hope. “We aim to offer Hope and Light in dark places and dark nights,” Wald stated. “The compassion of our employees and industry friends is a big part of what makes us proud to work with them. Let’s demonstrate what amazing things we can accomplish with love in our hearts.”
Emeryville, Calif.-based lighting solutions provider Elemental LED has made a significant donation to the American Red Cross to support the relief efforts in Houston and surrounding Texas communities impacted by the flood damage from Hurricane Harvey as well as the devastation from Hurricane Irma to Florida and Southeastern portion of the country.
“Our hearts go out to all those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, including thousands of our customers throughout the southern US region,” said Randy Holleschau, CEO of Elemental LED. “We are proud to support the efforts of the American Red Cross in providing critical assistance to those who have suffered tremendous losses and disruption from these catastrophic storms.”
Mentor, Ohio-based EYE Lighting International’s employees were also busy collecting clothing to donate to the Austin Disaster Relief Network, which is supporting families displaced from Hurricane Harvey. Donations were collected from many businesses attending the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) Street and Area Lighting conference in Austin, Texas (held September 10-13), including EYE Lighting.
EYE Lighting’s President & COO Tom Salpietra commented, “While we are miles away from Texas, some of our employees have family and friends in Houston. We will be filling several large duffle bags of clothes to take with us to the IES Conference and donate to the displaced families of Hurricane Harvey. Creating a positive impact in the communities we serve, both near and far, is an important part of our core values.”
Since Austin has been supporting evacuees and others impacted by the recent hurricane, both the Street and Area Lighting Conference (SALC) and Roadway Lighting Committee (RLC) partnered with the local Austin Disaster Relief Network to form a fundraiser charity drive held at the IES Conference. In addition to clothing, donations included toiletries, blankets, cleaning supplies, and child-infant care items such as diapers, bottles, baby formula and stuffed toys/coloring books for children.