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BEYOND THE STORM — Rebuilding together: A look at the industries’ response to Harvey

As Tropical Storm Harvey dumped record rainfall on Southeast Texas, causing widespread flooding and devastation, local industry arose to help.

Big industry permitted employees time off for storm preparation, tended to their immediate needs and helped the communities they serve. They also made major local donations.

Here’s a look at what went on:

Huntsman
Port Neches

“Rita was a wind event and Ike was a surge event,” Huntsman Port Neches Site Director Chad Anderson said. “Harvey was different.

“On that Saturday as it moved across Houston and we were told it would be a big rain event we started seeing the inability of trucks to get here. We had about a foot of water across the parking lot. We couldn’t get raw materials in or out so we released all non-essential employees and left a skeleton crew.”

Flooding continued and employees encountered  problems getting to work. That when leadership decided to house the team.

“We had cots, we had food catered,” he said. “We rode out the storm.”

As the devastation unfolded, Anderson learned some employees were in dangerous situations.

“We have an employee who lives across from Flint Hills in the El Vista area. He called and said he couldn’t get to work. There was 4 feet of water in his house and he and his wife were on the roof,” he said.

Those that could left to get their own boats and help with rescues. Of 620 employees there were 250 directly affected with either water in their homes or roof damage.

Teams were assembled to go make employees’ homes safe and provide them with needed monetary help.

Huntsman wasn’t done:

• The company offered help to local churches, some of which were housing National Guard members and needed generators and fuel.

• The city of Beaumont had issues with its drinking water; Huntsman offered help.

• Huntsman provided water so Jefferson County Courthouse could run air-conditioning.

• When Jack Brooks Regional Airport became the hub for evacuations, Huntsman provided portable toilets.

Peter Huntsman, chief executive officer of Huntsman, spoke recently of how his recently deceased father Jon Huntsman Sr. checked on the facility and his employees and flew to the area as soon as logistically possible. He held a news conference on the Jefferson County
Courthouse steps, where he announced a $2 million donation — $1 million from his family, $1 million from the Huntsman Foundation — to create the Huntsman Flood Fund.

He also challenged contractors and suppliers to help.

Huntsman also gave to the Salvation Army and provided $300 gift cards to those affected by the flood in Groves and Port Neches.

Three months later, Huntsman donated $30,000 to the Blue Santa Program.

Valero Port Arthur Refinery

Mark Skobel got to Port Arthur a week before Tropical Storm Harvey. The vice president and general manager of Valero Port Arthur Refinery said he was going to move into an apartment but ended up in a hotel for seven weeks before finding a location to live.

Valero has 15 refineries, 12 in the U.S. and seven along the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi to New Orleans.

During Harvey, the entire Port Arthur facility was under water anywhere from 1 foot to 4 ½ feet across the whole 4,000 acres. One hundred twenty of Valero’s 800 employees suffered Harvey losses.

A team of helpers came through with trailers, setting up shop in the parking lot for more than a month. They helped employees pull out wet sheetrock and carpet and went where needed. Those unaffected joined in to help, he said. Employees were provided with food, lodging, cleanup and financial help.

Valero also helped the community.

“We broke our United Way record,” he said of the more than $1 million donation to United Way of Mid and South Jefferson County. “Corporate matches us 50 cents on the dollar and we thought of the goal of $550,000. We knew it was going to be tough but the employees stepped up to the plate with an open heart.”

Their total donation to United Way was $1,015,258.

Other Harvey relief efforts included:

• $1 million to the American Red Cross for relief efforts from Harvey and associated flooding.

• $25,000 to the Southeast Texas Emergency Relief Fund. Dedicated to Port Arthur Independent School District for the benefit of unmet needs of teachers, other faculty and school leaders affected by Harvey and for unmet needs of special needs of children in PAISD who have lost needed equipment and supplies to the Harvey.

• Supplied hundreds of meals to Port Arthur residents at Catholic Charities Hospitality Center.

• Provided food support at the “Love Port Arthur” event where the Austin Disaster Relief Network Organized over 1,000 church volunteers to provide assistance.

• Donated food to the United Steelworkers Union, who supplied food to residents.

• Donated supplies to the Southeast Texas Humane Society.

• Supplied blankets and supplies to Family Services Women’s and Children’s Shelter.

Cheniere Energy LNG

Harvey hit all three Cheniere Energy LNG locations — Corpus Christi, Houston and the Sabine Pass area — Wendy Craven, manager of philanthropy for Cheniere, said, adding the company was proactive and allowed employees time off to prepare.

During breaks in the rain employees went out and helped neighbors and strangers.

• Cheniere leaders took tours of local school districts to assess needs and worked on three houses with their own equipment: a single mother’s home, a foster home and a disabled veteran’s home —“folks who were not in a position to do the work themselves.”

• Employees collected food, paper products and more and helped disbursed these to those in need. Cheniere’s international offices also collected and sent donations.

Eban Burnham-Snyder, vice president of communications, and Craven said Cheniere made their commitment to help early on. A project was organized to get water to Port Aransas.

Cheniere owns four powerful, specialized tugboats.

These tugboats were used to traverse the dangerous waterways and check river conditions and report back to U.S. Coast Guard authorities, he said.

• Chenerie donated $1 million to the Red Cross.

Golden Pass LNG

“Almost half of our employees were evacuated or had flood damage due to Harvey,” Renwick DeVille, public and governmental affairs director, said. “More than 90 percent had immediate family members impacted, and we recognize that the rest of the community endured the same struggles and more.”

Golden Pass employees joined response efforts during and after Harvey made landfall in Southeast Texas,  rescuing more than 500 people during the storm. Employees provided shelter, meals, clean clothes and other supplies to evacuees and first-responders arriving in the area to assist with the recovery efforts, he said.

Donations included:

• $1.5 million to Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund that has helped Port Arthur, Jefferson County and Southeast Texas recover from damages caused by the storm.

• A $500,000 contribution to the 100 Club of Southeast Texas assisted first-responders and their families with their own recovery and rebuilding efforts as they helped others during and after Harvey.

• Other donations were provided to The Port Arthur Education Foundation, the Beaumont Women and Children’s Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, United Way of Orange County and others.

Motiva

In an issued statement to The News, Motiva said

nearly 700 Motiva employees were heavily impacted by Harvey, with almost 300 evacuated from their homes.

“It has united neighbors, communities and our company in a way that only crisis response can,” Ed Haloulos, Motiva vice president of human resources, said.  “Employees from Port Arthur and Houston rallied together to provide support, safe havens, food, water, and hope to our communities and to each other.”

Motiva said:

• Employees immediately volunteered with boat rescues, mucking houses, donating time and supplies to local shelters .

• Motiva donated $500,000 to support disaster recovery efforts in Houston and Port Arthur in addition to matching employee contributions 1:1 for disaster recovery efforts as part internal giving programs.

“We don’t just work here, we live here too,” Greg Lucchesi, general manager of the Port Arthur Refinery, said. “Neighbors help neighbors. So, when we learned of critical needs for jet fuel to enable helicopter rescues to continue and diesel to help keep the area’s pumps operational to ensure water was able to drain from the area, Motiva was pleased to assist in meeting those needs in the initial days of immediate response.”

• Dispatched two food vans with self-contained, full commercial kitchens to the region for continuous preparation of food in two locations, one staged for emergency responders and one located at a Port Arthur school where the city and Red Cross maintained a shelter, each serving about 150 meals every two hours.

• Motiva’s Port Arthur team members worked with local vendors and restaurants, including Fallows, Moncla’s, Butchers Korner and Beau Reve to provide those working at the refinery and in area hotels with hot meals and supplies — many boated in. 

• Donated $3 million to the Southeast Texas Emergency Relief Fund to support recovery and rebuilding efforts in Port Arthur and the surrounding areas of Jefferson, Hardin and Orange counties.

• Motiva also donated 750 laptops through the Comp-U-Dopt organization to families and students who lost computers because of the storm.

Chevron Phillips

Chevron Phillips helped quickly in Harvey’s aftermath.

“Within weeks of Harvey impacting our area, $50,000 each was presented to United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County and United Way of Orange County.  Support was also provided in the amount of $20,000 to the Southeast Texas Emergency Relief Fund,” said Vicki Derese, spokeswoman for Chevron Phillips.

• In November and December, Chevron Phillips reached out to area school foundations heavily impacted by flooding.  Donations of $10,000 each were provided to Orangefield ISD, West Orange Cove Education Foundation, Little Cypress Mauriceville Education Foundation and Lamar State College–Orange. 

• A $15,000 donation was made to the Port Arthur Education Foundation to assist Port Arthur schools and Lamar State College Port Arthur.

• To assist uninsured Port Arthur and Orange residents get back into their homes, $25,000 each was donated to Orange Christian Services and United Board of Missions.  These funds can be used to assist with mattresses and kitchen appliances.

  $10,000 was given to the Southeast Texas Food Bank and Shangri La.

  $20,000 was given to Buckner Children and Family Services for recovery efforts.

“We are so proud to be a member of the Southeast Texas community and are hopeful that these contributions will help with recovery,” she said.

BASF

• BASF contributed $1,023,153, including a corporate donation of $500,000 and employee dollar-for-dollar matched contributions of $523,153.

• Of the regional $500,000 donation made by BASF Corp., $190,000 went to three Golden Triangle organizations: The United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County, The United Way of Beaumont and the Southeast Texas Food bank.

• BASF Corp. has office and manufacturing locations in Houston, Freeport, Pasadena, Beaumont and Port Arthur.

• BASF Corp. allowed employees to use up to 40 hours of paid leave to repair their own homes or volunteer in the community.

• Immediately after the storm, BASF provided hotel rooms for displaced employees.

• The BASF TOTAL Petrochemicals Port Arthur site also donated mold remover, face masks, protective eye wear and gloves to the city of Port Arthur to assist local residents who experienced home damage.

• Generators, dehumidifiers, mold remover, personal hygiene and household items were provided by BASF to impacted employees.

• BASF provided camper trailers for 23 employees at the Port Arthur site and 24 employees at the Beaumont site that needed long-term housing due to significant home damage.

• Three BASF employee resource groups — African American Employee Group, Women in Business and Parents at BASF — worked collectively to collect supplies for employees and contractors. Collected items included school supplies, cleaning supplies and additional items for personal needs.

• Excess items provided by BASF and collected by the employee groups were donated to Salvation Army.

• Employees volunteered to help in the community as well as their own colleagues who lost everything. In total, more than 70 BASF employees volunteered in the community, more than 60 volunteers (including contractor employees) helped colleagues gut homes, and volunteers worked on 19 employee homes.

• More than 2,000 volunteer hours were provided in the community (Beaumont and Port Arthur sites) and these hours were shared with city and county leaders to help with the FEMA reimbursements.

• BASF TOTAL Petrochemicals site provided meal assistance for the Austin Disaster Relief Network during their visit to assist impacted residents (Sept. 30) and again at a Spring Break event (March 12) when Howard University students assisted in Port Arthur.

Total Petrochemicals

• 1 in 5 local Total employees suffered water damage to their homes.

• Total spent more than $2 million organizing professional clean-up crews to help tear out old sheetrock from employees’ homes and providing professional chemical spraying and drying services.

• Total provided generators, air-conditioners, donated fuel and gave cleanup kits and cleaning supplies to employees.

• Total provided hotels and storage units for employees who needed them and reserved rental cars for employees.

“I lost everything,” Kenny Tongue, Total Port Arthur Refinery shift supervisor, said. “They had a group tear out all of the sheetrock, remove everything and dry the house. Total has always been that kind of company. I just think they stand behind their employees.”

Gail Labath, Total Port Arthur Refinery application solutions supervisor, said she was just overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness that “we are a part of a company that doesn’t just say they care about their employees, but lives it.”

This story appeared in Volume 4 of The Port Arthur News Profile, April 29, 2018

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