In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence’s landfall on the North Carolina coast, truck driver Lee Granger reached out to Coke Consolidated’s assistance line for help. His house was one of more than 50 Coca-Cola Consolidated teammate homes in the Carolinas damaged by the powerful storm.
Soon after he called, his colleagues from as far away as Tennessee and Virginia – who had made the difficult journey to the Wilmington area, traversing road blocks and impassible areas, to serve other impacted teammates – arrived at his door. They hugged him, let him know they were there to help, and started removing fallen trees and cleaning up storm debris from his yard.
Granger was so moved that he joined the crew for the rest of the day, serving other affected teammates before returning to work the next day to diligently serve his customers.
“Through this storm and its aftermath, our people have shined day in and day out,” said Coca-Cola Consolidated Chairman and CEO Frank Harrison. “I am truly humbled and inspired by how our teammates have come together to serve in so many ways – working long hours, organizing and delivering donations and ‘getting our hands dirty’ to do whatever needs to get done.”
This herculean effort has been spearheaded by the Coke Consolidated Response Team, which consists of 13 volunteer employees who work in a variety of roles throughout the company. The unit, which was formed last year following Hurricane Harvey, began tracking weather alerts 15 days before Florence’s arrival and piecing together a response plan.
They traveled to Wilmington on Sept. 18 with one goal: to respond, refresh and renew teammates and communities hit hardest by Florence. The team assisted with recovery efforts, fielding tips from the hotline and local managers. They worked through the week and into the weekend, bunking in the rec room of a local church.
The response they received from grateful families was truly heartwarming. One young child of a local member of the sales team shared that he was “truly grateful that daddy works at a company that would come help us.”
“So far, we’ve been cutting down and clearing trees and debris,” said Tony Nunley, who is overseeing the logistics and coordinating assistance for teammates and families impacted by the storm. “We anticipate assisting with 'mud-outs', clearing furniture, and meeting with FEMA and insurance reps in the coming weeks. Most importantly, we’ve been spending time with our teammates – listening to their stories and letting them know we care.
“It’s been pretty humbling. Many of our teammates didn’t know we were there helping until they got home from work.”
In one case, a local member of the sales team left for work in the morning to serve his team and customers. When he returned to his wife and children later that night, several trees that had fallen on his backyard fence were chopped up and removed from his yard.
Nunley and his team continue to respond to Coke Consolidated employees in the Carolinas, many of whose homes are still unreachable due to flooding. “Unfortunately the end is not yet in sight,” Nunley said.
The Coca-Cola Foundation pledged $1 million to support relief efforts in the Carolinas following Hurricane Florence. Other Coca-Cola bottlers, such as Coca-Cola UNITED, have also reached out to help colleagues from Coke Consolidated. UNITED made a contribution to help Coke Consolidated teammates who were directly affected. In addition, Coca-Cola UNITED’s production and sales teams in Alabama and Georgia worked in advance and throughout the storm to help produce and supply water and other products to Coca-Cola Consolidated and communities impacted.
“It is in times of need when The Coca-Cola System – its companies and its associates – do their best work,” said Coca-Cola UNITED President and CEO John Sherman. “Our hearts and prayers and support are with our friends and colleagues from Coca-Cola Consolidated.”