Community Engagement
What’s Stronger Than Monster Hurricanes?
Lorna Donatone
Lorna Donatone
CEO, Sodexo Schools Worldwide
President, Sodexo North America

The natural disasters this hurricane season are leaving damage, both physical and emotional. Even as those most affected mourn and rebuild, they are bracing for more storms.

Amid the chaos, as our teams have been among the thousands in danger along each of the storms’ paths, I feel deep gratitude. Hurricane Harvey, Irma and their kin may be monsters, but they are no match for the human spirit.

There are many stories of heroism from throughout the region and I want share a few about some of our employees. I don’t have space to describe all that I’ve heard. I imagine there are countless more that I haven’t yet learned of. But, these few anecdotes about our food and facilities management teams are the kind of behind-the-scenes courage that have been on display every hour and every day during these terrible storms.

  • While others justly fled, our team at Florida’s Naples Community Hospital sheltered in place. I can’t imagine what it felt like to see the weather maps and hear the news and stay, come what may. They did just that. They stayed on to care for and feed patients with nowhere else to go. Then, when local stores were shuttered, the team opened up the hospital cafeteria to 3,000 more people in the community who had nowhere else to eat.
  • At the same time, the team at Lynn University in Boca Raton turned their space into a shelter and tapped into to their well-stocked pantry. They had prepared by stocking up on three days worth of food and supplies.
  • Nearby in Georgia’s Hendry County, the storm ripped through and left scores without power. Our school culinary teams remained there as well. Even though the teams lost food to power outages and flooding, they knew the community needed a safe place to rest and eat. So, they called their network of suppliers – many of them locals with their own heavy burdens. The suppliers stepped up and soon trucks delivered fresh supplies. The school team opened kitchens and served hundreds of people, then thousands. They also delivered hundreds more meals to remote areas in need. They are now serving 3,100 people a day and plan to continue their hard work until schools reopen.
  • Over in Texas a few days earlier, at Baptist Beaumont Hospital, the patients were evacuated and the National Guard moved in. At a time when water, power, food and supplies were scarce, the Sodexo team served the Guard. The culinary team there had prepared for the storm by storing extra supplies. Without water, the engineering team figured out how to tap a nearby well. The result of their preparation and dedication was that the Guard got three meals a day and regular showers.
  • Even those not in the storm’s path showed tremendous service spirit. Three hundred employees from around the country offered to travel to Florida and Texas to give local workers a chance to be with their families and rest. These workers often don’t know each other personally, but they feel the connection that they are part of a larger effort.

There are dozens more stories like this that I keep learning about every hour. I am so grateful to our teams. I also know the Sodexo stories are part of a bigger story.

It’s the story of team spirit among colleagues, friends, families and communities. This is what I will remember most about the last few weeks: that when in need we care for each other and when the storms are fierce, we show how resilient we can be.

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