Companies Create Unique Ways to Help Rebuild Communities

June 13, 2012

Shell Speedco SuperRigs in Downtown JoplinA few Fridays ago I took to the street along with hundreds of Joplin residents. Huge, colorful structures of steel and chrome surrounded us on both sides of Main Street (pictured). We were at a truck parade and our mission was simple – to find our favorite rig and cast our vote for “people’s choice.”

Another mission was unfolding on Main Street that evening, too.  As Joplin approached the anniversary of the EF5 tornado that destroyed a quarter of the town last year, Shell Oil Company and its business partner, Speedco, wanted to help fill some of the recovery gaps that remained one year later.  Shell has many employees who are experienced disaster responders and who know that communities need years to recover fully from major disasters.

“Hurricane Katrina in 2005 taught us a valuable lesson – we need to be there long after the crisis is over,” says Bruce Culpepper, Executive Vice President, Human Resources. “Relief shelters eventually close and people don’t have a place to go. By developing relationships with government and social service agencies, we can determine the support they need when a disaster strikes – whether it’s a check to help with immediate needs or providing resources several months or years down the road.” 

 As Joplin approached the anniversary of the tornado, Shell Oil Company and Speedco wanted to help fill some of the recovery gaps.

Shell employees know their company can do a lot to help, even long after the national news cameras have left. Under the banner of “All Roads Lead to Joplin,” Shell and Speedco took aim at advancing long-term recovery in Joplin. The truck parade, part of a free, three-day event called Shell Rotella™SuperRigs,  gave residents a place to go to take a break from the demands of rebuilding their lives and to commemorate the anniversary in an enjoyable way. The “Super Bowl of truck beauty contests” brought dozens of truck owners/operators from across the nation to help participate in Joplin’s recovery -- for the first time in the event’s 30-year history, SuperRigs involved a local charitable partner and took place in a disaster-recovery location.

With the help of Joplin officials, Shell discovered that robust family and emotional recovery services were still a need in post-tornado Joplin.

With the help of Joplin-area business, nonprofit, and government officials, Shell discovered earlier this year that robust family and emotional recovery services were still a need in post-tornado Joplin. Staff at Shell and Speedco solicited and reviewed numerous proposals from Joplin nonprofit agencies to learn about the local capabilities that could help meet that need. As a result, the Joplin Family YMCA became the first-ever SuperRigs charitable partner. During the closing ceremony on May 19th, the YMCA received $110,000 in cash Joplin YMCA Receives Check from Clean Slate Envirosupport for its Human Services Campus, which is set up in an area where families continue to live in FEMA trailers.

The $110,000 donation resulted from the combined giving efforts at Shell and Speedco, as well as the truck competition’s “Best in Show” winner, Connecticut-based Clean Slate Environmental Inc. Inspired by Shell and Speedco’s announcement of $100,000 for the YMCA’s recovery efforts, Clean Slate’s owners also donated their $10,000 in winnings to the YMCA (pictured).

The YMCA received $110,000 for its Human Services Campus, set up in an area where families continue to live in FEMA trailers.

The Human Services Campus is coordinating services, such as support groups, case management, dental clinic, parenting classes, and legal aid, from nearly a dozen organizations. The grant from Shell, Speedco, and Clean Slate will allow the Campus to provide further support for the three leading challenges that residents in the FEMA trailer community continue to face: transportation, housing, and employment.

This story yields three tips for companies that want to help with long-term community recovery after disasters.

Three R’s of Business Support for Disaster Recovery:

1. Recognize that the road to recovery is long.Not all giving needs to take place right after the disaster; in fact, nonprofits report an abundance of resources during the immediate phase of disaster response but a gap in resources for the work that comes months and years later.

2. Re-purpose what you already do as a company and put it in the recovery context after a disaster event. For example, 30 years of hosting the SuperRigs contest taught Shell how to run a great truck event, but its experience with previous disasters and after meeting Joplin officials taught the company how it could become a good recovery partner in Joplin.

3. Rely on local partners.The Chamber BCLC is often able to connect you to the local decision makers who are coordinating recovery efforts. For example, Shell and Speedco participated in a January 2012 national business delegation trip to Joplin, which BCLC and the Joplin Area Chamber hosted. The delegation trip helped Shell and Speedco determine if and how they wanted to participate in the ongoing recovery.