HR hurricane aid features creative efforts as well as money

By Kathy Gurchiek Sep 26, 2005

Organizations are using their unique resources and creative approaches to help people who have lost family members, homes and jobs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

One HR professional of an unidentified trade association, for example, told pollsters the association is forming a group to assist in the rebuilding of branch offices of impacted credit unions.

Another organization is providing evacuees with gift certificates for food, according to the online poll, which analyzed the 340 responses from randomly selected HR professionals.

The findings complement what individual members have been telling SHRM about their organizations relief efforts since Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast at the end of August.

When an employees daughter lost all her worldly possessions after Katrina hit Chalmette, La., Pro-Log Inc.s HR director, Heidi Parker, called her companys site in Farmington, N.M., to arrange shipment for some extra furniture from Parkers sister.

I planned to ship some product there, and told [my sister] we would put the furniture on the truck for the back haul, said Parker, who works in New Iberia, La. My sister mentioned that there were other people wanting to donate items if we could truck it back.

Parkers company flew two employees to Farmington to drive two huge rental trucks back to Louisiana. Other Farmington companies became involved, resulting in a caravan of four 18-wheelers and two U-Haul trucks loaded with items for the employees daughter and other Katrina victims, Parker told HR News.

There was more to bring but not enough vehicles, she added. The disaster brought out the worst in a few and the best in most. This is an example of people determined to show their best!

Attorney Willie E. Gary, acting on behalf of the Florida law firm he is with, sent his private plane loaded with supplies to Houston to benefit families who had evacuated there in Katrinas aftermath.

In addition, the plane was used to reunite evacuees with their loved ones, said Enid Maisonet, HR coordinator for Gary Williams Parenti Law Firm and an SHRM member.

And the Illinois Housing Development Authority in Chicago was helping place evacuees in vacant homes and apartment buildings, according to Beatrice Jones of the housing authoritys HR department. It solicited clothing, nonperishable food, school supplies and other items for evacuees, the SHRM member said in an e-mail.

Monetary relief, of course, remains the most popular form of assistance, the survey found:

    117 respondents or 34.5 percent reported an organizational match of employee donations.

    112 respondents or 33 percent said their organizations contributed financially in addition to or excluding employee donations.

    108 respondents or 31.9 percent said their businesses organized employee donations to relief agencies.

    103 respondents or 30.4 percent said their organizations encouraged employees to donate without organizational involvement.

Although not all are jumping into relief efforts43 respondents or 12.7 percent reported their organizations had not contributed to relief efforts in any way and had no plans to do soothers are contributing, and in a variety of ways, the survey found.

That includes providing employee assistance programs; supplies such as food, medicine and technology (56 respondents or 16.5 percent); and offering temporary or full-time employment (47 respondents or 13.9 percent).

Among benefits-related assistance, organizations are:

    Providing unpaid time off so employees can help with relief efforts (38 respondents or 11.2 percent).

    Continuing to provide benefits to displaced employees (35 respondents or 10.3 percent).

    Continuing to pay displaced employees (33 respondents or 9.7 percent).

    Providing paid time off so employees can assist in relief efforts (28 respondents or 8.3 percent).

    Providing temporary housing to affected employees (27 respondents or 8 percent).

    Relocating affected employees to the organizations other offices (21 respondents or 6.2 percent).

Also, employers are providing extra cash or gift cards to help displaced employees; assisting employees in locating missing relatives; encouraging employees to donate unused vacation time and sick days that can be turned into monetary contributions; offering alternating work schedules or carpooling to employees in regions where gas is scarce; and providing low-interest loans or reimbursing living expenses to affected employees.

Other forms of relief, the survey said, have included:

    Providing technical expertise and/or trained staff to help with efforts.

    Adopting a school, helping displaced students with tuition or allowing them to take classes, with credits to be transferable to universities in affected areas.

    Providing generators for employee use until power is restored.

    Holding blood drives, bake sales, job fairs, telethons and garage sales to raise funds to assist relief agencies.

Gemmy Industries Corp. in Texas adopted a woman, her daughter and her 6-year-old grandson. The company put the family in the three-bedroom unfurnished apartment that the company owns and that employees furnished with a washing machine and furniture.

It tracked down information needed to enroll the child in school and worked on his behalf to get the school to provide him with supplies and school uniforms.

You know you work for a good corporation, Gemmy Industries HR manager Kim Scott, PHR, said in an e-mail, when you see so many co-workers getting involved and being concerned about how they can contribute to the hurricane victims.

Kathy Gurchiek is an associate editor at HR News . She can be reached at

For more articles and information related to the natural disasters, go to SHRMs Hurricane Response Page.


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