Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria directly affected more than 1,000 employees at Kellermeyer Bergensons Services, LLC (KBS) as well as many of our customers. To a lesser extent, Hurricane Nate caused some disruption when it made landfall this past weekend. These historic storms wreaked havoc and destruction on the communities they struck, and KBS responded swiftly to help employees and customers.
“Our immediate concern is always for the physical well-being of our KBS teammates and their families,” said Mark Minasian, Chief Executive Officer. “The events were devastating and our thoughts, prayers and resources remain with all of the people in the affected regions. Our folks were literally in the center of the storms and we have a duty to them. After both Hurricanes Harvey and Irama, our regional leaders, in spite of the damage that they personally experienced, organized relief efforts into the storm-ravaged areas to check on employees and provide them with basic needs such as water, food, gas for transportation, and in a few extreme circumstances even clothing and shelter. One of our most senior operating executives who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, even lost everything — home, vehicles, all of it. The moment he and the ones he loved were safe, he began assisting in the coordinating efforts on behalf of others. We know that as Americans helping others in times of need is a core part of who we are, and at KBS we are aligned with and honor those values.”
While Florida residents were preparing for Hurricane Irma, Glendys Salamanca opened her home in Hollywood, Fla., to crewmembers who lived in low-lying areas or mobile homes and who needed a safe place to stay. After the storm passed and many employees went back to work, Glendys knew her crewmembers didn’t have much food so she brought them sandwiches from home. She kept the momentum going while she was at work by asking her teenage children to prepare hot meals for employees who did not yet have their power restored.
“I am proud of KBS and of our team for how we came together to take care of each other during this difficult time,” said Regional Vice President Luther “Clay” Davis whose area of responsibility includes Florida. “Throughout every phase of Irma, we made sure our folks knew that their personal safety was the top priority – from seeking shelter before the storm to after the storm when they were traveling in areas with no power and no traffic lights, or when it came to helping our customers clean up their businesses. We could not have done it without the amazing support of our office staff. They were our lifeline to the field and helped us communicate with each other when phone service was erratic. We had great teamwork between the field team, Payroll, Human Resources, Customer Service and others to get us back to work.”
In addition to supporting our employees, our customers called on us to restore their businesses after the storms passed so they could reopen for their guests.
“We care deeply about our customers and their success by delivering the cleanest and safest experience to them and their guests,” Minasian added.
The general manager of JCPenney Store 1958 in Beaumont, Texas, praised the KBS crew who cleaned up the store after Hurricane Harvey: “Marilu and the cleaning team did an extraordinary job. They were in the store from the beginning in helping with the cleanup process. They were instrumental in getting the floors cleaned, carpets extracted, and helping getting the store back to normal. We are appreciative of the contributions that they make to the store on a daily basis.”
With the help of the crew led by Marilu Jasso Mosqueda, the store re-opened on Sunday, Sept. 4, just a couple of days after the rains ended. The general manager credited “the dedication, hard work, and professionalism of Marilu and her team” for the store’s rapid restoration.
Overall, most KBS employees had little or no impact from Hurricane Harvey and returned to work quickly. About a dozen reported to management that they were dealing with more difficult situations, most commonly related to their homes, and many employees reported they lost their vehicles in the flooding.
In Texas, Regional Zone Managers Scott Graham, a relocated Katrina survivor, along with Joaquin Blanco organized relief efforts into areas hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey to distribute water, food and supplies to those employees most in need of assistance. In one situation, Joaquin arranged for transportation to bring an employee and his family back to the Houston area from a shelter in Dallas. Their home was destroyed and Joaquin helped him find a place to live. Macy’s also stepped in to give clothes to him and his family.
“I’m grateful for the support from our KBS management to help our employees dealing with Hurricane Harvey,” said Regional Vice President Jon Parrish who oversees the region that includes Texas. “It’s good to know that we are able to take care of our people who are out in the field every day working hard to take care of our customers.”
Back in Florida, after the storm warnings were lifted and roads were cleared, Clay stocked his vehicle with supplies and traveled from his home in Jacksonville, Fla., to several parts of the state to reach managers and employees who were struggling without power, water or food. He even left his own portable generator and 20 gallons of fuel with an employee whose family remained without power for an extended time.
“I saw the damage across the state firsthand and I was impressed by everyone coming together to help each other clean up and get back to normal,” Clay said.
In Florida, about two dozen employees reported critical or serious impacts from Hurricane Irma such as losing their home, extended power loss coupled with high temperatures, storm-related injuries or illness, and difficulty getting clean water or food.
“We received tremendous support to help our employees through these hurricanes from within KBS and also from our customers,” said Executive Vice President David Ward who has oversight of both Texas and Florida. “JCPenney and Home Depot made an amazing commitment to provide lost wages to our employees who work in their stores. That helped a lot, and more broadly, I knew that KBS leadership at the top would not flinch in making sure people got paid even though the worksites were closed. We paid all of our employees for lost time if they were not able to work due to the storms’ impacts. It would be simply unacceptable to us to have done otherwise in their moment of need. Leadership like that is why I am proud to work for KBS.”
KBS has one employee in Puerto Rico who oversees the company’s vendor-managed business there. He and his family made it through Hurricanes Irma and Maria safely and are working on getting back to normal, as much as is possible with the situation on the island. To support recovery efforts, the company is shipping him a generator, communications equipment, water and nonperishable supplies.
To confirm that employees were safe in the wake of these hurricanes, the company established the KBS Employee Emergency Communications Line, an 800-number for employees in affected areas to call to check in and report they were safe as well as to request assistance if they needed it. Human Resources representatives in Oceanside, Calif. or Maumee, Ohio answered the calls during business hours and Customer Care in Maumee took messages for them during off hours. Additionally, company representatives actively reached out to every single employee identified as living or working in the impacted areas of the hurricanes.
Employees who spoke with representatives in Oceanside and Maumee expressed gratitude and were thankful that the company cared about their well-being and not just getting them back to work. Many people choked up with emotion when telling their stories of surviving the storms and thanked their colleagues for their compassion and patience.
The company kept employees informed with updates and useful resources on the Employee Portal, which can be reached by clicking “Employee Login” on the banner of the www.kbs-services.com website. The resources posted here include websites and phone numbers for federal and state authorities providing assistance to storm victims as well as a number of charities helping people with housing, food and other support.
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