Heroes Amidst the Floods

There are stories of heroism and sacrifice, bravery and suffering and the rediscovering of the word ‘neighbor’ in the wake of what may be the worst flooding disaster in the history of the United States. Beyond the dramatic news coverage of dramatic aerial shots of Houston’s unprecedented floods are the social media feeds of cell phones capturing the sheer will of humanity to overcome and risk safety to help others in need. This is the best of humanity, where the equality of all people is never clearer against the unrelenting forces of nature. We’re also seeing it now in Florida and the Keys where Irma made landfall.

The worst of humanity may be scattered among our industry, like vultures waiting to get their fill on the impending insurance checks and re-building campaigns to a hurting and shocked populace. This article is not about them. Instead, this article focuses on the good we can and should do to put people above profits and to give back in tangible, heartfelt ways that underscore an industry that has the resources and manpower to make more than a small dent.

Houstonians helping each other. Credit: unknown

Amidst the chaos are the heroes of the ‘Cajun Navy,’ mere mortal men and women with fishing boats, kayaks and rafts heading into countless neighborhoods to find those trapped in flooded homes. As I write this, my Facebook feed is full of videos showing ordinary citizens towing literally dozens of boats along the interstate towards the flooded areas. A friend’s brother has live-streamed his iPhone’s footage from his boat, headed out to a nearby senior adult retirement community that has easily four feet of standing water on the first floor and no power to the complex. A text from a friend in southwest Houston tells me that he’s being rescued from his home by firefighters in boats going up his street. The surreal moment when he turns to look back at his house while wading through water to get into the rescue boat is a moment few of us from afar can fully appreciate.

KPLC 7 News in Houston, TX on their Twitter feed.

On the Church Sound & Media Techs group on Facebook, a volunteer church AV tech shares pictures of his church building partially submerged and his efforts to move gear to higher ground so that the rising flood waters do not submerge it all. A pastor friend of mine in Houston has organized with two relief organizations to stage in the church parking lot since his location is higher than most. A businessman who helps staff churches links to a group of pastors from another church that are coordinating relief efforts to house families from various communities left without a home. Faith-based relief organization Convoy of Hope sent a fleet of supplies to a litany of communities in need of food, clothes and supplies for young children.

Convoy of Hope trucks heading to Houston.

A Texas-based grocery store, H-E-B, sent a convoy of meal trucks and big rigs loaded with bottled water and food along with their disaster relief team even while the rains continue to pour. Academy Sports and Outdoors’ corporate offices have been opened as a relief shelter, with air mattresses and sleeping bags lined around walls and surrounding cubicles, in addition to personal hygiene products for each person.

Academy Sports & Outdoors corporate offices in Houston, TX, added inflatable beds for flooding victims. Credit: unknown

An old “Deuce” military vehicle usually used to promote 8th Wonder Brewery enlisted in helping rescue and relief efforts, while an Austin tourism company, Austin Duck Adventures<, sent two of their amphibious ‘duck’ boats to help and has already delivered medical supplies in flooded areas. Jim McIngvale, also known as “Mattress Mack,” opened his two furniture stores in Houston to serve as temporary shelters. He invited people to come via a Facebook Live video and gave out his personal cell number and even fed people for free.

Houston Northwest Church in Houston, TX. Photo credit: Clint Collins

This is the goodness of people, the sacrificial love and commitment to not only weather this storm, but to provide weeks or even months of shelter, relief and hope to families, business owners and individuals who have found themselves suddenly without home or transportation or even a job to go back to. Yes, relief organizations and the local, state and federal government will help some, but beyond shelters and lines for bottled water is an undercurrent of hope that is happening one person at a time. It is my prayer that local churches in the affected areas have the continued financial and tangible resource support from other churches since the problems will not recede with the waters.

Illustration from the Washington Post.

In the aftermath of such devastation, there will be rebuilding. There will be insurance dollars and sacrificial giving by individuals to rise again from the grime and muck. Let’s be a part of the solution now. Let’s be generous with our time, our resources, our expertise and our finances. And let’s make sure we hold a strong stance against those within our industry that would seek to put profits ahead of people affected by this disaster.

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Giving financially is one of the easiest steps. For example, a text-to-give $10 (applied to your mobile phone bill) to relief organization Convoy of Hope is applied immediately to providing resources in the midst of disaster zones (text CONVOY to 50555). But there are other ways that companies in the AV industry can apply a larger donation that translate into immediate supplies for rescue, relief and rebuilding.

Your company can donate in addition to financial gifts, consider:

  • Samaritan’s Purse – they partner with churches in affected communities, where the churches become a home base by housing volunteers, storing equipment, and sharing information and insight about the community with Samaritan’s Purse staff. They also stay long-term to help with rebuilding.
  • Global Giving Foundation – Specifically focused on bringing the resources of companies to affected areas through their corporate program.
  • Texas Diaper Bank – they change the lives of babies, toddlers, senior adults and the disabled. Diapers are always in critically short supply in flooded areas.
  • PortLight – they focus on the disabled community and replace lost durable medical equipment and ramping and assist residents in purchasing and installing accessibility equipment during the rebuilding phase.
  • Heart to Heart – Has corporate support programs that allow your employees to contribute in multiple ways. They also have an ‘immediate needs’ product drive that your company can support.

The companies giving back that I’ve highlighted above are doing so in very public ways. Though donating and serving in a public way isn’t done for the sake of good PR, it doesn’t hurt that good PR is certainly a differentiator for churches looking at their next vendor, consulting firm or systems integrator. What can your firm and the AV industry do? More importantly, will you do it?

What say you? Share your opinions and experiences in the comments below.