Remembering Hurricane Harvey

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas, causing catastrophic flooding and more than 100 deaths. This event showed how quickly a storm can change our communities and the lives of the people who live in them – including many in our own Healthcare Services Group (HCSG) family.

Bracing for the Storm

“Hurricane Harvey was a storm that you don’t see every day. When watching the news, the meteorologist said that the rain would come in “feet” and not “inches,” which was alarming  for us all.,” said Gary Taylor, HCSG Director of Operations.

At the time, Gary was a Senior District Manager and had several facilities that needed to be evacuated to Dallas, TX, – more than four hours away. “We had three hours to get all residents and staff on the buses in Galveston, TX, before the only road out of town was shut down. Several managers and employees walked to work in a foot of water to make sure all residents were taken care of/ We also had several staff members sheltering in place,” said Gary.

During that time, Gary and his team worked countless hours to ensure facilities were safe. He recalled several early mornings when he used his personal truck to drive through floods to visit facilities that were taking on water to deliver extra supplies and linens. In one instance, he set out to get and deliver water and other necessary supplies to Victoria, TX. What should have been a  three-hour trip, took ten due to road closures. “At one point, I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough fuel to make my way back – most stations were out of gas. Luckily, I found one and make it back safely, only to be on the road again to ensure every facility within my area had what was needed and that all staff and residents were taken care of.”

Looking back, Gary never expected to be part of a storm like Hurricane Harvey, especially after moving to Houston only one month before the hurricane. “We took Harvey head-on and never looked back. Although I don’t ever want to go through that again, with everything we have learned, I know we would be successful now as we were back in 2017.”

Reflecting Back

Five years later, HCSG Sr. Director of Operations Chris Brown also reflects on his experience with Hurricane Harvey.

“It was a crazy experience to live through. But to see how the team responded and the level they took it to was amazing. We had a guy get a boat and drive around Beaumont, TX, picking up and delivering supplies for customers,” said Chris.

Chris detailed the preparations he and his team made before Hurricane Harvey struck. “We only had about a 24-48 hour notice when it changed from a tropical storm to a hurricane. However, we were able to secure four cargo vans and large moving trucks to get in and out of the high waters and deliver supplies to the facilities we serviced in those areas. Not knowing how bad it was going to be, it probably seemed like overkill at the time. But it definitely paid off.”

Chris talked about how dedicated the team was after the rain stopped. This group of HCSG colleagues immediately got to work, driving through the high waters to deploy supplies and prepare team members working at impacted facilities to stay in place for up to a week. 

Although the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey will always stick with Chris, the mobilization efforts from the team reaffirmed his confidence in HCSG as an organization.

“Going through it all again, it’s inspiring to see what we did. We weren’t doing it for the accolades, it’s just who we are. That’s what makes Healthcare Services Group successful. It’s the culture, that DNA, that’s ingrained in all of us. I don’t wish for another hurricane, but if one were to happen, I know we have a lot of great people out there, and I’m not worried about how we’ll respond to it.”

Supporting the HCSG Employee Community

After witnessing this disastrous event, HCSG fundraised nearly $100,000 to provide emergency relief to hundreds of employees who needed help the most. The contributions served as HCSG’s first official employee assistance fund. During the week of November 13, 2017, HCSG sent a team to personally meet with employees who suffered severe hardships during and after the storm and present them with grants. Through tears, we heard many accounts of what employees had experienced during Hurricane Harvey. Many had to leave their homes due to rising flood waters, flee via boats and canoes, go to shelters after being unable to access their neighborhoods, and drive from hotel to hotel until they could find vacancies. Others shared how they were stuck at work for days because the area around the facilities was flooded. Story after story, the theme was the same, tremendous challenges and loss. However, our HCSG family in Texas showed incredible Passion and Perseverance then and still now.

“A tree fell on our house causing our power to go our and major damage.
We were without power for five days.”

Account Manager
Columbus, TX

“We lost our entire house. All of our appliances and furniture were damaged.
We had to leave our house and move into a hotel for a month after the hurricane.”

HCSG Team Member
Bernard, TX

“Hurricane Harvey impacted almost every room in our house. Our living room was completely torn off of our house – the roof and walls are gone.
There’s water damage in every room with all walls, flooring, and furniture in need of replacement.”

Food Service Director
Aransas Pass, TX

“I lost my house, truck, boat, two trailers, generator, stove, refrigerators, couches, and multiple beds.
I could continue the list, but there was too much to count.”

Housekeeper
Blazoria, TX

“The hurricane caused my roof to collapse. Water from the rain destroyed our bedroom, flooring, and all of our belongings.
We’re staying with my sister until we can repair our home.”

Dietary Manager
Houston, TX

“On August 28, my family and I had to evacuate our home for a week while the storm passed.
We lost all of our furniture including beds, tables, and couches. We’ve been trying to fix it ourselves little by little, but have a long way to go.”

Housekeeper
Columbus, TX

“I lost everything and am starting from scratch. From my house to my car, everything was flooded.
I have to stay in a shelter until everything is rebuilt.”

Floor Tech
Texas

“My whole house was lost. When we were ordered to evacuate, the only things I grabbed were work clothes – I didn’t even have an extra pair of shoes.
All of our clothes, furniture, and personal belongings were destroyed in the hurricane.”

Laundry Worker
La Grange, TX

“We lost everything to the water damage. In addition to our home, our wedding was supposed to be a week later and we still had to pay for that.
We’ve been able to replace our kids’ beds and get married, but my wife and I are grateful for anything.”

Housekeeper
Houston, TX

Going Beyond Assistance Fund

In the five years since Hurricane Harvey, that one-time assistance fund has evolved into the Going Beyond Assistance Fund (GBAF), a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing emergency relief grant funds to HCSG employees and their families who experience unexpected hardships. The GBAF has provided nearly half a million dollars in grant funds to HCSG team members in need since 2017.

Today, the Going Beyond Assistance Fund aims to help even more employees facing hardships through recurring payroll donations, annual giving, and an Amazon Smile partnership. To learn more about the GBAF and how you can contribute, visit HCSGcorp.com/GBAF.

Moving Forward

HCSG client and employee communities continue to experience more natural disasters – fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, and topical storms in Florida. Throughout it all, our teams have been prepared and ready to serve, all in part to everything they learned during Hurricane Harvey. Our values are engrained in all we do, and the desire to serve is what continues to drive us.