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Dealer Community Takes a Lead in Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Published September 7, 2017


Abram Olmstead, Senior Director

Abram Olmstead

Senior Director, Digital Media

As the news cycle inevitably shifts, the Gulf Coast region in Texas is only just beginning its recovery process. And for the dealership employees who sustained property damage from Hurricane Harvey, the impact will be felt for years to come.

NADA President and CEO Peter Welch, NADA Chairman Mark Scarpelli and NADA Foundation Chairman Annette Sykora are currently in Houston meeting with relief workers and delivering much needed resources to dealership employees.

The NADA Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund has received more than 500 applications from dealership employees as of September 7. 

The NADA Foundation is asking dealers across America to donate $1,000 per store to help dealership families during this difficult time. Many dealers, manufacturers and associations have already stepped up in a big way, but requests for aid are still coming in faster than the Emergency Relief Fund can currently support.

And as donations continue to come in from across the nation, the local dealership community is taking a lead role in Houston's recovery process. Automotive News said it best in a recent editorial:

"The same sense of commitment that has sustained Little League teams and marching band booster clubs will inevitably grow to encompass other forms of assistance for those who need it: workers, customers, fellow retailers, first responders and local residents. Dealers and their employees will be the ones distributing food and potable water, collecting donations for shelters, and, yes, helping to get people into new cars and trucks so they can get back to work."

Here’s a list of stories highlighting the relief efforts of several AutoNation employees:

Mark Meadows (Acura Gulf Freeway) went above and beyond during and after the storm. Since his home was not hit by flood waters, he opened it up to whomever needed a place to stay. He ended up with 11 people who were displaced by the rising flood waters. Some were family members and some were from his church. They were there for several days until the storm ended and the flood waters receded from their neighborhoods. In the midst of all of this, he also cooked and feed first responders, and delivered food to League City Police Department, Webster Police Department, a fire station in Dickinson and Coast Guard members.

Octavio Zambrano (Houston Greenway) used his army style HUM-V and was doing search-and-rescue to get people out of their homes. He rescued a 60-year-old woman and five of her family members, took them to a shelter and then went back for more people from the same complex. Then he went to Richmond, Texas, the following day to continue his efforts.

Robert Taylor (Chevrolet Gulf Freeway) arrived Monday morning to his dealership and checked on everything to see what damage had occurred. He then left the dealership to go to Dickinson and help with getting people out of the flood waters and to help carry items to awaiting trucks. Tuesday was spent in Friendswood doing the same helping people get to safety who were evacuating their homes. On Wednesday, he returned to the dealership after picking up associates that couldn’t make it and found cleaning supplies (bleach, trash bags, masks, gloves) and delivered them to the donation shelter in League City. On Sunday, he helped to remove sheetrock and carpet, etc. from a flooded home in Friendswood.

James Norrell (MINI of the Woodlands) and his church community assisted in rescuing people in trouble by bringing them to a safe haven and offering them food and shelter. They most recently brought supplies to a church in Beaumont, Parkway Life Center, for those in need.

Laszlo Koncsek (Mitsubishi) decided to venture out to check on his dealership, as most of his colleagues were flooded and unable to leave their own neighborhood. He was turned back by the HPD on the Gulf Freeway. The next day, Laszlo was able to make it to the store to check on things before heading out to join in the relief efforts. After donating a large amount of clothing to a local church, he commented that there are probably a lot of people around the Houston area wearing AutoNation tee-shirts, from the stack of clothes he delivered. Laszlo spent the remainder of the day helping with the relief efforts, by organizing donations, handing out water, and trying to comfort those sheltered at the church. He was most impressed by the fact that there were as many people volunteering, and dropping off donations as there were coming to the church seeking help.

Alex Alvarez Tristan (Ford Gulf Freeway) received a phone call that his mom needed to evacuate but the streets were already flooded so he had a friend loan him some jet skis so he could get to his mom's house to rescue her and her dog and his two little brothers before it was too late for them to get out.

Mike McNeal (Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Houston) got together with his fellow church members to mount rescue efforts for people in a neighboring community. They jumped in a lifted truck and grabbed a small boat and headed out to Pecan Grove. Over the next two days Mike and his crew rescued more than 30 families trapped in flood waters over 6-feet deep. After helping as many people as they could, they moved on to the Mission Bend neighborhood, another very hard-hit area. They continued to rescue people from their flooded homes through August 30. Most of the people rescued were taken to shelters. One such rescue stands out. He spoke of a calm elderly couple he helped out of their home that was completely flooded. McNeal and his crew pulled them out of the house and loaded them into the boat. They held hands and comforted each other during the whole ordeal. The next day, his church group saw a new need and continued helping. They gathered supplies and started going back into the flooded neighborhoods from their previous rescues and delivered them to the people that were now trapped in their homes by high water, but refused to leave. They delivered several truck loads to these communities, and dispensed the food, water and personal items to them via boat, going house by house. These efforts are still ongoing today after work each evening. McNeal and his church members are still delivering supplies to shelters and homes all throughout his community.

For those who are not able to join the on-the-ground relief efforts, please consider making a donation to the Emergency Relief Fund today!

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