Automation Fair attendees pitch in to pack 8,000 Thanksgiving meal kits for Houston area residents affected by recent flooding.
Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in late August, bringing with it a 500-year flood. For Rockwell Automation, the company’s first concern wasn't whether its Automation Fair event would go off as scheduled 10 weeks later; it was concerned first with the safety of the community. It wanted to make sure that everyone was doing well, and began organizing efforts to give back.
"When a natural disaster hits, Rockwell Automation's partner of choice and who we go to on a global level is the Red Cross," said Patricia Contreras, director of global community relations and contributions, Rockwell Automation. "Immediately after Harvey hit, the company made a $75,000 contribution to the Red Cross. At the time, not only had Harvey just hit, but Irma and Maria were turning in the Atlantic. We knew that our partners at the Red Cross had their hands full."
Rockwell Automation also had an established history with the United Way to support local communities. “We reached out the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County due to a long standing partnership,” Contreras said, “and it connected us to the United Way of Greater Houston."
The company moved to create an opportunity for individuals to show their support for those affected by the flooding during the course of this week’s Automation Fair event at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which had sheltered flood refugees in the weeks after Harvey. "Rockwell Automation wanted for its employees and attendees of the Automation Fair to have a give-back opportunity on the show floor," said Contreras.
8,000 Thanksgiving meals
Initially, the company considered distributing preparedness kits with batteries, a flashlight and other items needed in case of an emergency. But with Automation Fair occurring the week before Thanksgiving, the concept of the Thanksgiving meal kit came to be.
"We knew through our partners at the United Way that the number one thing that Houston families are facing, in addition to damage to homes, is the loss of income,” said Contreras. “A worker at a small business that closed, a damaged car or difficulty getting to work can all cause hardships.” So Rockwell Automation decided to provide 8,000 Thanksgiving dinner kits to Houston residents “in hopes of making their holiday a little easier and brighter."
Rockwell Automation, through the United Way, bought the food from a local grocer who delivered 40 tons of non-perishable staples to the convention center's floor. "It is enough food to feed 35,000 people a proper Thanksgiving dinner complete with vegetables, gravy, cranberries and dessert along with a gift card to purchase a turkey or ham—8,000 of them," said Contreras.
With approximately 10,500 Rockwell Automation employees, partners and customers onsite for the Automation Fair event, a steady stream of volunteers blew through the task of packing meal kits at the rate of more than 1,300 boxes an hour. The goal was to be done packing the kits over the course of the two-day event, but it only took six hours. The Thanksgiving dinner kits are now being distributed to residents through various United Way affiliate agencies and partners.
“Rockwell Automation has been a long-standing partner with United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, sponsoring Season of Caring, consistently engaging the most employees and contributing the most collective volunteer hours of any local business organization,” said Jayne Thoma, vice president of volunteer engagement for the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. “We are so proud to show the strength of the United Way network coming together to support every community, locally and across state lines.”