Heroes That Made Their Brands Proud in Harvey’s Wake

Hurricane Irma, which is headed in the direction of Florida, was upgraded to a Category 5 storm Sept. 4. The last Category 5 hurricane to hit Florida was Andrew, which killed 65 and caused over $23 billion in damage to the state in 1992. Understandably, Floridians are gravely concerned. Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency, and evacuation orders are being given.

The nation's disaster resources are stretched thin after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, but its optimism in human nature has been bolstered by some of the selfless acts performed in the course of that tragedy. Previously we reported on large brand initiatives to help in the relief effort, and we commend any organization that uses its resources to help those in need. But we'd like to look at some individual acts of brand-associated heroism.

To be clear: If you're not a rescue or relief organization, you can't ask employees to be heroes. That's not what they signed up for, and of course the legal ramifications would be staggering. But if you create a brand culture that emphasizes community and empathy, and that you care about more than the bottom line when the going gets tough, you might empower individual employees to help in ways that will truly make you proud.


One of the most widely circulated images from Harvey's aftermath was of a man evacuating an elderly woman from her flooded living room on a jet ski, both all smiles. J.C. and Karen Spencer were stranded and not getting any response from 9-1-1, so in desperation they reached out to their local Chick-fil-A, which they regularly ordered breakfast from. Store manager Jeffrey Urban recognized their number, picked up the phone, and coordinated a rescue with restaurant owner Cindy Smith.

Hovercraft Unlimited and Coca-Cola

Bill Zang, the president of Hovercraft Unlimited, traveled from Illinois with two hovercraft to help in rescue efforts. A moment of commendable cooperation came about when Coca-Cola gave him permission to break into one of its warehouses, which had been rendered inaccessible to land vehicles, to "steal" bottled water and give it to those in need.

Pizza Hut

Sugar Land Pizza Hut manager Shayda Willison, along with fellow workers and friends, delivered pizzas by kayak to stranded Texans running out of food. "You never let your family go hungry," she said to Fox 4 News, exemplifying a community spirit that many organizations seek to foster.

El Bolillo

Sometimes even those in need of rescuing themselves can be heroes. Workers at the El Bolillo Bakery, a small local chain, found themselves trapped inside the facility, and rather than panic, they decided to continue baking for the relief effort while they awaited rescue. Over the course of two days, they turned more than 4,000 lbs of flour into bread and pan dulce, which they brought to emergency centers after they were reached.

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