Disaster Relief & Recovery Loading...
In 2017, the U.S. experienced 16 unique billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events. In less than one month, three hurricanes (category four or stronger) resulted in an estimated cost of nearly $270 billion.*
At Sears Holdings, we are proud to support the many members and communities affected by these natural disasters. From the wildfires in California to the hurricanes in the Caribbean, South Florida and Gulf Coast, our thoughts continue to be with the millions of families affected by these events.
Associates waded ankle-deep in water with flashlights and lanterns to complete a grueling cleanup. Little by little, running on massive generators and homemade signs, stores began to re-open for short periods of time to provide basic necessities to our members. With schools closed, break rooms were converted to day care centers and a Sears store became temporary housing for support teams that were dispatched to help in the disaster relief and recovery efforts.
As one of the island’s largest retail chains, it was imperative we reopen our stores in order to provide critical goods and services to the community. Through the tireless work of our associates, most of our stores were open within two weeks. Despite his home being heavily damaged, Kmart general store manager Joel Villegas focused on his storm-ravaged Rio Hondo store. Within five days, his store was open and serving neighbors desperately in need of supplies.
“Even during the darkest days the morale was high. We will recover and rebuild and Sears and Kmart will be there every step of the way.”
General Store Manager
Plaza Las Americas
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Shop Your Way teams established in-store ‘Zonas de Descanso’ (comfort zones) for members of the community to charge their phones, access Wi-Fi and reconnect with family and loved ones. The comfort zones gave families a place to sit and rest, cool down in air conditioning and allow their children to play with toys and games provided by the store. Members of the Kmart Pharmacy team were available to take blood pressure screenings and share information about flu shots and other immunizations. Within days, we helped members access more than 1,300 generators, 2,700 fans, 3,500 flashlights, and more than 2,400 vaccines. From pharmacies and vaccine clinics to money wiring services, we readily served the health and financial needs of our neighbors. With direct email and mobile access to our members, we are proud to have connected a majority of Puerto Ricans with the supplies they needed to rebuild.
In October, Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez and catchers Rene Rivera and Victor Caratini launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for hurricane victims in their native Puerto Rico. To support their efforts, Shop Your Way donated more than 25,000 Chicago Cubs t- shirts, sweatshirts and other apparel items to charities on the island, including those in the players’ hometowns of Bayamon (Baez and Rivera) and Coamo (Caratini).
Bringing Christmas Joy to the Children of Puerto Rico
With our stores reopened, we turned our focus to delivering a Merry Christmas to families impacted by Hurricane Maria. Shop Your Way, Sears and Kmart once again partnered with Puerto Rican Major League Baseball player René Rivera and his wife Mariel Perez in a toy drive initiative “Que Ningún Niño Pierda la Ilusión en Esta Navidad" (Let no child lose the excitement of Christmas). All Kmart and Sears stores on the island accepted gifts of new and gently used toys. Additionally, Shop Your Way members across the U.S. purchased toy packs either online via Shop Your Way or at one of 25 Kmart and Sears locations in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the Chicagoland area. Sears Holdings associates purchased toy packs at an event hosted at the corporate campus. Shop Your Way matched each donation and in less than three weeks the program reached its goal of bringing Christmas joy to 25,000 children in Puerto Rico.
In October, our Shop Your Way, Chief Commercial Officer Robert (BJ) Naedele reached out to me to take part in a special initiative to provide support to the areas that had been so greatly impacted by a devastating hurricane season. A cross-functional group of people from merchandising, inventory, supply chain and our field teams worked together to get critical items such as generators, water, propane, lighting supplies, tarps, and canned foods to our members. As a team, we set out to break down barriers and rewire the way we work to drive a member and community-centric effort. This was the first step in helping our members rebuild their lives.
The stores in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands recovered at record speed and we were able to open our doors to provide not only merchandise, but comfort and a helping hand when our associates and members needed it the most.
It has been truly touching to see how our associates and management teams worked together to rebuild our stores, offering their best service and smiles to serve others in a time when they were also suffering. I am very proud of all of our field teams and our partners at our corporate office who have supported this effort and I am very thankful for all of those who in one way or another have been a part of the recovery as well as effort to rebuild my beautiful Puerto Rico.
Rosa Rodriguez is General Manager of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on the Shop Your Way Markets Team and has worked for the company for 24 years. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico and began her career as a part-time associate at the Kmart store in the Montehiedra Town Center mall in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1994. She volunteered extra shifts until she was offered a full-time position at the store as a checkout supervisor. Rosa then moved to the general office and next the regional office. During her time at the regional office, she was a category manager for the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands region and was responsible for vendor relations, local merchandising, and promotions. During her tenure, the Caribbean became the top region in sales and profit in the Grocery and Drug businesses. In 2013, she moved to Sears Holdings' corporate headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois as Pricing Manager and Senior Director of Promotions for the offshore markets and has continued to advance her career in leadership roles at the company. In her free time, Rosa enjoys cooking, traveling and volunteering.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit areas of Houston, Southwest Louisiana, Southern Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hurricane Harvey made landfall three times over four days and was the wettest tropical storm on record, dumping an estimated fifty inches of rain causing catastrophic flooding. The storm resulted in the evacuation of 39,000 households and an estimated $125 billion in damages.
Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms recorded in the Atlantic, devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands with stores heavily damaged in St. Croix and St. Thomas. The islands had minimal to no communication and it was imperative that we found a way to reach our associates.
The only transportation between islands was a helicopter chartered by hotels on St. Thomas. Our team utilized the helicopters to send 500 pounds of lifesaving supplies such as tarps, propane, lanterns and water. Additionally, we were fortunate to send a team of associates in to check on the welfare of the St. Thomas team and begin their tireless work to get the damaged stores up and running.
After devastating the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hurricane Irma made landfall on the Florida Keys. Learning from Harvey, occupants in Florida had sufficient time to evacuate. Trucks were waiting north of the affected areas with supplies and volunteers to offer assistance once the storm had passed. Supplies no longer needed for victims of Harvey were re-routed to replenish the needs in Florida.
In the immediate aftermath of the storms, we accounted for each associate in the affected areas to ensure their safety. At our corporate office, our associates, including members of our executive leadership team, picked up their phones and made hundreds of calls to our impacted members to offer support and assistance where possible. We matched member zip codes to impacted areas and issued Shop Your Way rewards points to our members in need.
Due to the catastrophic flooding and damage to vehicles, special offers from our Shop Your Way partners were instituted, including free flat tire repair and performance checks at our Sears Auto Centers, discounts on pre-owned vehicle purchases from AVIS, Shop Your Way points on Uber rides, plus many more.
Sears Holdings teamed up with the American Red Cross to help raise critical funds to support families impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Our Enterprise Security and Crisis Management Team worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer the parking lot of our Sears store at the Central Mall in the severely impacted area of Port Arthur, Texas, as a staging area. We also worked with FEMA and emergency responders to convert a recently closed Sears Auto Center location into a field hospital to treat injured area residents.
* SOURCE: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2018). https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/