The second major hurricane to strike the United States in little more than two weeks has once again drawn the giving attention of Columbus companies and their employees.
Credit-card processor TSYS said Tuesday it is donating $50,000 to the American Red Cross for relief efforts connected to Hurricane Irma, which pounded away at the Caribbean islands last week before coming ashore in south Florida Sunday. Irma then moved north into Georgia Monday with tropical storm rains and winds, punishing the state and its neighbors, South Carolina and Alabama.
This is the second time that TSYS has given $50,000 to the Red Cross, having done so two weeks ago after Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast in Texas, bringing record rains and flooding there to include to the major city of Houston. At that time, TSYS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Troy Woods pledged to match his employees’ donations up to $20,000, which has occurred.
“I am happy to tell you that, to date, team members have contributed more than $34,000 to the Red Cross for Harvey relief,” said TSYS spokesman Cyle Mims. “This means that with TSYS’ initial donation of $50,000, plus team member donations of more than $34,000 and Troy’s personal match of $20,000, that TSYS has contributed more than $104,000 so far for Harvey relief.”
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Regional bank Synovus Financial Corp., parent company of Columbus Bank and Trust, said it has set up a “Here Matters Irma Fund” for employee contributions to be distributed to other Synovus staffers impacted by the storm for their immediate needs and overall community efforts. Synovus will be matching employee donations up to $10,000 for storm relief efforts, said spokesman Lee Underwood.
“As always, our local teams are putting together some initiatives in their communities, because they know those communities,” said Underwood, who had been without power at his home for more than 24 hours as of Tuesday afternoon. He resides in north Atlanta, where the winds were howling Monday.
Underwood said the company also is helping in other ways, considering it has bank branches in the hard-hit Florida cities of Tampa and Jacksonville, as well as in the Savannah, Ga., and the Charleston, S.C., areas. The assistance includes refunding ATM fees for customers using competitors’ ATMs to secure cash in areas declared disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Administration. It also will waive overdraft fees and loan payment late fees for a limited time in disaster areas.
As of Tuesday afternoon, some, but not all, Synovus branches were closed because of lost power in the Georgia cities of Athens, Brunswick, Byron, Carrollton, Covington, Dunwoody, Jasper, Lavonia and Valdosta. There also were four locations in Savannah not operating, along with three in St. Simons Island and two in Statesboro.
The bank also had 27 offices closed Tuesday in Florida, including in the cities of Bradenton, Clearwater, Fernandina Beach, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Largo, Naples, Oldsmar, Orlando, Palm Harbor, Port Richey, Sarasota, St. Pete Beach, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Trinity, Venice, Wesley Chapel and Yulee. A couple of coastal area branches in South Carolina were not operating as well.
“Tomorrow, two trucks with relief supplies are departing Columbus for Florida,” Underwood said.
Meanwhile, insurance firm Aflac two weeks ago made a $500,000 contribution to the American Red Cross in Texas, assisting residents who had been forced out of their homes by rainfall totals between 40 to 50 inches from Houston east to Beaumont. The company has a significant presence in the Lone Star State, with employees and agents there.
Aflac spokesman Jon Sullivan said Tuesday the company is still assessing the damage that was done by Irma.