Hurricane Relief

by Debi Moen
in Features
Hurricane Harvey/NOAA Satellite Image
Hurricane Harvey/NOAA Satellite Image

How Our Industry Helps Others Weather the Storm

The worst of times can bring out the best in the human spirit. The world witnessed this with people helping people during Hurricane Harvey’s flooding in Texas and Louisiana. Before the waters subsided, Hurricane Irma pounded islands in the Caribbean, Cuba and Florida, and not long after that, Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, major earthquakes crumbled buildings and lives in Mexico.

The widespread devastation is immense, the long road to recovery just getting started. FRONT of HOUSE reached out to find those — some of whom were directly hit by nature’s wrath themselves — who extended helping hands. While it’s impossible to make note of all the donations to many relief organizations out there, we found a few stories that represent the best of the humanitarian spirit in our industry.

ALP Production & Design’s Kirk Garreans and friends set up a charging station and offered water and comfort.


‡‡         ALP Design & Production

Kirk Garreans has been battling Stage IV cancer over the past two years. But when Hurricane Irma hit Florida, he didn’t let it stop him. He and wife, Carol — his partner in ALP Design & Production — took to the streets to help their local neighborhood, bringing a little power to the people in the South Orlando/Kissimmee area.

“We built a small portable charging station for phones and tablets and took it to neighborhoods that didn’t yet have power so people could charge their phones, have a cold bottle of water and relax under the awning of our old beat up RV in front of a few fans we had set up. It’s not much, but it’s something I could actually do.”

Once power was restored to their community, they moved this setup to a neighborhood nearby, and in a local park, they set up a portable tent and offered the same services.

“People could charge their devices while they played basketball, watched their kids in the park, and we gave ice water to people who needed it. We were assisted by a family friend and her two children. We feel it is vital to teach our kids the importance of helping others,” Garreans says.

Before his cancer diagnosis, his family had been active in disaster relief, helping out with operations to serve Haiti earthquake victims, the various hurricanes in 2004 in Florida, Katrina in 2005, and they spent a month in Joplin, MO helping at a food bank after their destructive tornado. But since the diagnosis two years ago, they’ve had to suspend their business while Garreans undergoes more rounds of chemotherapy. “I can’t do a lot to assist others after the hurricane, since my cancer leaves me weak, tired and in some pain,” he says. “But there are a lot of people in need!”

LD Systems loaded a truckload of necessities and cleaning supplies from its crew stuck in Dallas to haul back to Houston when roads cleared.

‡‡         LD Systems

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston-based LD Systems, one of its crews was safely on the job in Dallas, but stuck, unable to return. While waiting to ride the storm out, Robert Ausmus, director of production services, asked the crew to “grab a truck’s worth of supplies.” Five days later, the stocked truck hauled its bounty back to Houston, offering necessities and an arsenal of mops, brooms, and assorted cleaning items for fellow co-workers in need. LD Systems donated the rest of the load to help others affected in the area.

‡‡         Harman

Harman pledged $25,000 to Team Rubicon, a disaster relief organization run by veterans and first responders. Harman is also partnering with Music For Relief to establish a fund for its employees to make personal donations to support Hurricane Harvey disaster relief efforts. Harman is matching total employee donations up to $10,000.

In addition, Harman employees in Dallas area actively organized volunteer efforts, and they gathered desperately needed supplies for the 5,000 evacuees who sought refuge at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. Harman employees are also supporting the Dallas Dog Rescue Rehab Reform, which has taken in hundreds of dogs and cats left behind in Harvey’s flooding.

‡‡         Just A Bunch of Roadies

Just A Bunch of Roadies is a collective of music industry professionals who share their skills, assets and relationships to quickly respond to critical needs worldwide. The group has a history of doing incredible humanitarian efforts. Head roadie and organizer, Charlie Hernandez, compiled and sent out a list of food banks in Texas that were likely affected by Hurricane Harvey, urging friends and partners in the organization to donate food for the quickest impact on the community.

VER filled a 26-foot truck with critical items and delivered it to the San Antonio Food Bank.

‡‡         VER

VER found several ways to help out. Employees donated to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. In addition, staff in their San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans branches filled a 26-foot truck with critical items and delivered it to the San Antonio Food Bank in Texas.

Lisa Elvers and Jeff Rozak set up Kid Zone for employees who needed a day care assist.

‡‡         LMG

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Orlando-based LMG employees raised nearly $2,000 — along with matching company funds — for the American Red Cross to support victims from the flood. While that was happening, Hurricane Irma was forming, ready to blow into Florida. Jeanne Walsh, marketing manager of EPT, the parent company of LMG, said efforts then focused on the employees themselves.

As Irma was intensifying, LMG prepared its employees with anticipated hurricane supplies including sandbags, water and batteries. “Constant communication was had between teams to ensure everyone was prepared. LMG also initiated an employee hotline to get the most up-to-date information regarding office status and employee support,” Walsh says.

“After Irma, LMG provided hotel accommodations for employees who were displaced or had no power,” she says. “To help returning employees with childcare during the week-long school closures, the company provided onsite childcare assistance. A kid zone was created to keep youngsters entertained with activities, with lunch and snacks provided.”

LMG's Kid Zone

‡‡         Other Industry Helpers

Along with companies directly involved in live sound production, other live event industry players lent a helping hand. ETC was far from Hurricane Harvey. But its employees in Madison, WI felt for its friends in Texas, home to its new company, High End Systems. So the two companies drummed up support to the tune of more than $82,000 in employee donations and ETC matching funds. ETC’s CEO Fred Foster says the amount will be donated to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, administered by the Austin Community Foundation. More than 200 employees across the companies contributed during the three-week fund raising drive. “It was incredible to see the contributions and outreach pouring in,” says Becky Koester, general manager at High End Systems. “Texas Strong!”

Elation Professional cleaned up the damage to their Miami office, and on Sept. 28 they opened the doors to the public. It was not just an invitation to visit the new showroom, it was also set up as a Hurricane Irma food drive. During the event, Elation asked for donations of non-perishable food and water to deliver to hurricane relief efforts for Florida.

‡‡         Music For Relief

Music For Relief is sending aid to survivors of hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, with donations that can be made via its website. The organization was started by the band Linkin Park in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Comprised of musicians, music industry professionals and fans, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing aid to natural disaster survivors and protecting the environment.

MFR’s Whitney Showler, Chief Operating Officer, says, “We are partnering with Team Rubicon in Texas and Florida to bring former U.S. Service member volunteers to affected communities to help recover and rebuild. In the Caribbean, we are working with International Medical Corps to bring clean water and sanitation, food, fuel and building materials to the families in need.”

Showler says that Music for Relief’s key strength is in vetting trusted partners who are on the ground responding to each disaster. “We then highlight their work through our online channels and direct funds to them directly. Or, we inspire donations from young philanthropists who may not know where to give.”

‡‡         Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company raised $16 million after Hurricane Harvey to help storm victims and has committed $2.5 million to aid in humanitarian relief efforts across Florida, the Caribbean and other areas impacted by Hurricane Irma. The donation will support the American Red Cross, UNICEF, Save the Children and other nonprofit organizations. During Hurricane Irma, Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line donated meals, provided storage for supplies and power-utility vehicles, donated bedding to shelters and made rooms available for first responders. Disney will also donate goods and services throughout the region as specific needs are identified.