As we remember the first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, we also remember that Houston is still rebuilding.
A flight attendant passed on the following note from CEO Oscar Munoz to the United family:
Dear United family,
I spent this past week in Hawaii, meeting with employees and government officials to reaffirm our commitment to the islands, including offering whatever assistance is needed as a result of Hurricane Lane. I have personally expressed to our colleagues here that the thoughts and support of the entire United family are with them and will be with them as they plan for the recovery process.
Those words of steadfast support hold meaning because we have backed them up with our actions before.
One year ago on August 25, Hurricane Harvey made landfall. As the sky darkened and the rains fell, I wrote to our Houston colleagues: “We will be there every step of the way going forward. And we will remain committed long after the skies clear and the waters recede in order to help our communities rebuild, stronger than ever.”
One year later, the clouds and floodwaters have disappeared. But, the United family and our commitment to Houston remain, just as we promised.
I believe it is important to reiterate that commitment on this one-year milestone for two reasons. Firstly, it reminds all our colleagues, whether they are facing hurricanes in the Pacific or wildfires in California, that we stay true to our commitments. Secondly, it reminds all of us that, even one year later, United colleagues and their family members in Houston – as well as in Florida, Puerto Rico and the surrounding region – are still struggling to return to normal.
We can take great pride in the work we’ve done so far. We’ve conducted more than 30 humanitarian relief flights throughout the affected regions, delivering vital supplies, personnel and other important material. We’ve raised more than $2.5 million in donations from customers and fellow employees, as well as 1.5 million worth of donated miles given to United’s disaster relief partners.
United We Care distributed more than $6 million in relief funds to more than 3,400 colleagues.
I want to thank all of you who rolled up your sleeves to make this heroic effort possible. You reached into family budgets in order to help fellow employees in need. You volunteered to make wellness checks on folks to make sure they were accounted for and safe.
I personally traveled to Houston in the days following the storm and I witnessed the immense care and compassion, selflessness and solidarity, that truly made me proud to be part of your team.
However, we know our work is not finished, even one year later. Some families still have not returned to their homes. Property damage and loss of personal valuables continue to leave a hole in family budgets. Communities and local businesses are still in the process of healing.
That’s why our commitment continues.
For example, as part of our $1 million commitment to the Houston Food Bank’s School Markets program, earlier this summer 100 employees from various departments teamed up for a volunteer day at the Houston Food Bank, helping pack and sort more than 19,000 pounds of food. The School Markets program is a vital resource, providing healthy and long-lasting meals and produce to 200 families within school districts in and around the Houston area affected by the storms last year.
Thanks to our partnership with Airlink, United continues to support recovery efforts to Puerto Rico. We’ve supported more than 60 relief volunteer relief flights so that great organizations can keep up their inspiring work, rebuilding roofs, repairing buildings and removing debris.
This is what it means to truly be United to the communities we serve. Long after the lights and cameras of the news media have moved on, our eyes remain fixed on helping our colleagues and their families still working to get back on their feet.
That’s a message I hope we can all remember, even as new events unfold around the world, requiring our attention and persistent support.
It’s a nice note that shows empathy and compassion. I think Munoz is also right to note that Houston is just one epicenter of natural disaster. Puerto Rico and Florida were also hit hard, now Hawaii has been hit, and California has dealt with horrific wildfires all summer. All impact a global airline with operations around the country.
The recovery effort continues. Kudos to United for its part in rebuilding devastated communities.