The extreme waterlogged devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas has prompted Columbus-area companies, including Aflac and TSYS, to make monetary donations that will aid those suffering through the tragedy, while also encouraging others to do so.
Insurance firm Aflac said it is making a $500,000 contribution to the American Red Cross in Texas, an organization that is assisting residents who have been forced out of their homes by rainfall totals between 40 to 50 inches from Houston east to Beaumont. Harvey slammed the Texas Gulf Coast last Friday, then just sat in the area, spinning flooding rains for several days with little movement, creating the natural disaster.
“We have a significant presence in Texas,” said Aflac spokesman Jon Sullivan. “The good news is that all of our Texas employees and agents have checked in safely. However, some are experiencing losses of property and possessions.”
The supplemental health and life insurer also posted a message to policyholders on its Facebook page Wednesday night. It let customers know that their policies would not lapse for 60 days, with the company planning to reach out at some point to ask if disaster victims with Aflac policies need more support.
“Please know that the thoughts and prayers of everyone at Aflac are with you and your families. We want to do everything possible to help you during this difficult time,” said the company, which is encouraging employees to make donations as well.
Columbus-based credit-card and payment processor TSYS said Thursday it has made a $50,000 donation to the American Red Cross to go toward storm victims and their recovery.
“On top of that, we have issued a challenge to team members — they’re calling it the ‘Heart of TSYS Hurricane Harvey Relief Challenge’ — where we’re asking team members to donate to the American Red Cross,” said TSYS spokesman Cyle Mims, who noted the firm’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Troy Woods has pledged to match all staffer donations up to $20,000.
“There’s not a deadline or a ceiling on donations,” Mims said. “We hope team members will hit that $20,000 mark and beyond.”
Mims also said the company’s prepaid-card specialty subsidiary NetSpend, which is based in Austin, Texas, about 150 miles north of the stricken zone, will be working closely with the Austin Disaster Relief Network, which helps storm victims staying in Austin shelters.
“NetSpend’s working in conjunction with them, and they’re donating some Smart One gift cards to be given to families who have relocated to shelters there,” he said. “They’re also encouraging their employees to donate to the Austin Disaster Relief Network, and the company will be matching their contributions. Employees are being asked to donate time to the shelters to help as well.”
TSYS also said its merchant business is now working to identify all of its merchant customers — such as retailers who use TSYS for processing transactions — to determine how they have been impacted by the hurricane and flooding and what they can do to assist them with getting back up and running as Houston and the surrounding area recovers.
Meanwhile, Synovus Financial Corp., a regional bank headquartered in Columbus, sent an internal memo asking staffers to consider donating to the crisis, which on Thursday got even worse as the city of Beaumont, Texas, lost its water system due to the flooding, forcing the hospital to shut down and transfer patients elsewhere, with residents there also lining up at supermarkets for bottled water.
The bank, which has offices in the Southeast, is parent company of Columbus Bank and Trust. Like Aflac, it is asking people to donate to the American Red Cross, which will act has a disaster assistance clearinghouse, making sure money and materials get to the storm victims who sorely need the help.
“Here’s to all of you for showing ‘Here Matters,’ no matter where ‘here’ may be,” Synovus said in its employee memo, playing off the company’s advertising campaign that focuses on connecting to the communities and residents in which it does business.
Retailers also are jumping into the relief effort, with Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeastern Grocers saying customers can make donations at its supermarkets, which include Winn-Dixie, while checking out through next Wednesday. The company also operates BI-LO, Fresco y Mas and the Harveys chains.
“Our thoughts are with those impacted by the devastating destruction of Hurricane Harvey. With our stores operating in the Southeast, we know many of our loyal customers and dedicated associates understand the difficult recovery process these families and businesses face,” Southeastern Grocers President and Chief Executive Officer Anthony Hucker said in a statement.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart said Thursday that it and its Walmart Foundation have pledged up to $20 million to support relief efforts. It specifically earmarked $10 million to American Red Cross shelters and $2 million for the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
The retailer also said its customers can make contributions at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores through Wednesday, with the company donating $2 in cash or needed products to the disaster assistance campaign, up to a total of $10 million. Customers can make their donations at cash registers, at Walmart.com or Samsclub.com, or by texting “WALMART” to 90999. With the texting option, a one-time $10 donation will be added to the contributor’s cell phone bill or deducted from their prepaid balance.