After Hurricane Florence Made Landfall, These Brands Quietly Helped the Relief Effort

FEMA would have little to distribute were it not for these companies

Hurricane Florence destroys a pier on the Atlantic Coast.
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The Anheuser-Busch brewery in Cartersville, Ga., is a sprawling, 900,000 square-foot facility whose fermentation tanks turn out enough beer to fill 250 trucks a day. Opened in 1993, the plant produces everything from Michelob to King Cobra Light to, of course, Budweiser. But as Hurricane Florence set its sights on the Carolinas last week, the Cartersville brewery halted its normal operations to package up something that had nothing to do with hops and barley—specifically, it was water.

As the hurricane swept through the southern U.S. over the weekend, displacing tens of thousands of people and reaping some of the estimated $17-$22 billion worth of damage that experts predict the storm will do, aid organizations mobilized to furnish those affected with basic supplies in an effort that is still ongoing. Among those supplies: 300,000 cans of fresh water, trucked into North and South Carolina courtesy of Anheuser-Busch.

“Because of our logistical capabilities and our production capabilities,” said the company’s vp of community affairs Bill Bradley, “it’s relatively easy and efficient for us to put water in cans and ship them quickly to affected areas.”

Anheuser-Busch is not alone in these efforts. While charities like the Red Cross and agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tend to get all of the media attention when a natural disaster strikes, it’s frequently consumer brands and retailers who actually supply the needed items, often with little recognition.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the help of these companies that donate so much and distribute it to the people who need it most,” said Jessica Blake, spokesperson for Convoy of Hope, a faith-based nonprofit whose programs include disaster response.

“We do other fundraising,” Blake continued, “and we have people give donations—but these in-kind [corporate] donations really make a huge difference.”

From its Springfield, Mo. headquarters, Convoy sent a literal convoy of trucks filled with foodstuffs and other supplies to a staging area in the city of Wilmington on the North Carolina coast. While Blake did not want to spotlight the contributions of one company over another, Convoy of Hope’s partners on Florence relief include Home Depot, Kellogg’s, Campbell Soup Company (whose portfolio includes baby and toddler food brand Plum Organics) and Hormel.

Fortunately for displaced Carolina residents, the same scale that allows these companies to dominate their respective trade areas also puts them in a position to muster goods where they’re most needed. As of Sunday, for example, Walmart estimated that it had shipped 950,000 packs of batteries, 39,000 mops and 1.3 million breakfast bars, among many other items.

In addition to deploying relief supplies through Convoy of Hope, Home Depot activated its Disaster Response Command Center in Atlanta, where the company’s supply and merchandising teams move selected inventory (plastic sheeting, duct tape, first-aid kits and so on) to stores where the demand will be greatest.

Meanwhile, last week Tide’s Loads of Hope program prepared two of its mobile-laundry trucks as part of a response team assembled by Matthew 25: Ministries. The custom-built trucks carry industrial-grade washers and dryers donated by Whirlpool and can turn out 300 loads of laundry a day. P&G developed the trucks in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when it became clear that people displaced from their homes not only had few if any changes of clothes, but no way to keep those clothes clean.

FEMA has been mobilizing for natural disasters since its 1979 creation by the Carter Administration, and while the agency does hand out supplies from its own stock, it relies heavily on donations from the private sector, as a 2011 posting written in the wake of Hurricane Irene made plain: “The private sector has been preparing right alongside us to help minimize possible impacts and line up coordinated response and recovery efforts,” the agency said, citing companies including Best Buy, Walgreens, Safeway, Wegmans and Macy’s for their contributions.

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