Home » Charles Butt Donates $5 Million To J.J. Watt Foundation For Disaster Relief

Charles Butt Donates $5 Million To J.J. Watt Foundation For Disaster Relief

NFL star JJ Watt with Winell Heron and Scott McClelland, H-E-B.
NFL star JJ Watt with Winell Heron and Scott McClelland, H-E-B.

Last updated on September 25th, 2017 at 03:59 pm

H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt has made a personal, $5 million contribution to the Justin J. Watt Foundations Houston Flood Relief Fund.

“Throughout this disaster, I have been humbled by the state’s unprecedented generosity and heroism,” said Butt. “I want to commend and support the extraordinary relief efforts of J.J. Watt who has taken the lead, not as a world-class NFL player or celebrity, but as an individual who saw the need to help his fellow Texans and immediately took action.”

H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt with Justen Noakes, director of emergency preparedness for H-E-B, in the emergency operations center on Aug. 29.
H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt with Justen Noakes, director of emergency preparedness for H-E-B, in the emergency operations center on Aug. 29.

A check for $5 million was presented by H-E-B’s Scott McClelland, president, and Winell Herron, group VP of public affairs, diversity and environmental affairs, on behalf of Charles Butt at NRG Stadium on Sept. 6.

“I appreciate the incredible generosity Charles Butt and H-E-B has shown,” said Watt. “It is amazing what can happen when people from all over come together for one common goal.”

“We are so proud of the amazing work that J.J. has done for our community, including this landmark Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery fundraising effort,” said Jamey Rootes, president of Watt’s team, the Houston Texans. “We also appreciate the tremendous support of great leaders like Charles Butt who does so much to help Houstonians and Texans every day. All of this is a testament to the power of teamwork and Houston’s ‘can do’ spirit.”

As a passionate advocate of public education in Texas, Charles Butt’s philanthropic efforts earlier this year helped establish The Holdsworth Center and created and endowed the Raising Texas Teachers Scholarship Fund. He also is the founder of the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation, an advocacy organization committed to teacher preparation and the development of public school leaders.

H-E-B mirrors that generosity through its Helping Here philosophy, which promises to stand by communities during times of crisis. Throughout this recent catastrophe, H-E-B’s comprehensive relief efforts include monetary commitments, support of emergency shelters across Texas, Food Bank donations, volunteers and the deployment of H-E-B’s Mobile Kitchens and Disaster Relief Units throughout the state.

“Hurricane Harvey has taken a catastrophic toll on our great state. Now is the time to come together and collectively help rebuild our communities,” said Butt.

H-E-B’s emergency teams went into high gear

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, H-E-B was prepared to provide relief to storm-torn communities. H‑E‑B mobilized its Emergency Response Team and dispatched its Disaster Response Units (DRUs) and the H‑E‑B Mobile Kitchens to an H-E-B in Victoria, Texas, on Aug. 27. the mobile kitchens can feed 2,000 people in an hour.

The convoy of more than 15 vehicles, which included the DRUs, two H-E-B Mobile Kitchens, water and fuel tankers and H-E-B trailers, delivered relief supplies and services to the communities in the affected hurricane area.

More than 100 H‑E‑B partners (employees) volunteered to accompany the convoy and assist affected residents. Supplies included food, water, ice, dry goods and medicine. Since the storm, more than 2,000 employees have gone to help from places like Austin and the Rio Grande Valley.

H-E-B’s DRUs are fully equipped with an H-E-B Pharmacy and mobile Business Services unit, which allows displaced residents to fill prescriptions, cash checks and pay bills, as well as access an ATM. The H-E-B Mobile Kitchens, two 4t-ft. long food preparation facilities that are each designed to serve up to 2,500 meals per hour, were set up and serve hot meals to first responders and storm victims.

H-E-B Director of Emergency Preparedness Justen Noakes told Texas Monthly, “After a storm such as Hurricane Harvey, those core services are non-existent in the impact areas, so we’ve built these capabilities into our mobile units. We’ve really discovered that the quicker we can get these into the impact area, the quicker the community can return to normalcy. So the disaster response unit coupled with emergency kitchens really brings a lot of relief to those in a quick manner.”

H-E-B added the DRUs and more mobile kitchens after Hurricane Rita in 2005. Noakes said the company realized that was what it would take to truly support the communities after events like hurricanes.

After a storm makes landfall, H-E-B waits until 35 mph winds exit. That’s when teams go in and check the infrastructure and structural integrity of stores, including evaluations of mechanical, electrical, refrigeration and computer systems.

“Then it’s a question of if it’s safe from an environment perspective and from a law enforcement perspective. Do we have enough partners to open? Are there customers? A lot of the time when we roll up to these stores after a disaster, we’ll have customers waiting out in front of our stores waiting for us to open,” Noakes told Texas Monthly. “We’re very cognizant of the need in a community: If there’s not a need, we’ll still open, but if people are waiting for us, we’ll put an emphasis on getting that store open as soon as possible. It’s a very concentrated effort, and one that we’ve been developing since Hurricane Rita.”

Noakes said the most intense experience he’d had during the Hurricane Harvey efforts was when the city of Beaumont called H-E-B to ask what to do. The city had no water pressure and was surrounded by water. Noakes called it “the toughest day in my 24-year career at H-E-B.”

“You have to pause for a moment to consider the gravity of the situation, and what’s going on, and what are your next steps to make that happen, and I can tell you that from that moment on, out of everything that H-E-B did from our perspective, we mobilized tankers, we mobilized tractor-trailers of water, and we got those on the road and we got those into Beaumont on Thursday when nobody else could,” he told Texas Monthly.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) couldn’t get trucks into Beaumont. H-E-B trucks drove through two feet of water to deliver 10 tankers of water that day, with Juan-Carlos Ruck, SVP of supply chain, in the lead truck.

Donations began immediately

As Hurricane Harvey’s impact was first felt in Texas, H-E-B immediately donated $100,000 toward relief efforts and began accepting customer donations for the families and communities devastated by the storm.

Herron said H-E-B received many requests from customers about how they could help. All H-E-B, Central Market and Joe V’s Smart Shop stores across Texas launched a statewide tear pad campaign, giving customers an opportunity to support victims through donations of $1, $3, or $5, that can be added to their total grocery bill.

All monies accepted benefit the American Red Cross for Texas Flood and Hurricane Relief, The Salvation Army and Feeding Texas. H-E-B has been working closely with these organizations to quickly respond to the needs of individuals, families and communities impacted by the storm.

On Aug. 31, as the need became more clear, H-E-B began sending hundreds of employees from San Antonio, where the company is based, to Houston to help clean out and reopen stores as it worked to resupply its locations. About 800 employees volunteered to work in areas such as Rockport, Aransas Pass, Victoria and Houston, spokeswoman Dya Campos told the San Antonio Express-News. More employees were sent to Port Arthur and Beaumont.

The company also administered financial and housing assistance to its employees in Houston who lost their homes.

H-E-B President and COO Craig Boyan told the Express-News that six of the company’s Houston-area stores were “pretty much wiped out” by flooding, including a relatively new 100,000-s.f. store in Kingwood.

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