On September 28th, 2022, Hurricane Ian made landfall on the west coast of Florida as a monstrous Category 4 storm, bringing with it torrential rainfall, heavy winds, and catastrophic flooding. It was considered one of the 3rd most costly weather disasters in United States history with its cataclysmic 155 MPH winds, and caused widespread damage across the southeast in excess of $113 billion dollars. In the wake of such record-breaking devastation, a myriad of notable natural disaster relief groups stepped up to assist with repairing and rebuilding the communities affected by the hurricane, including international non-profit organization, All Hands and Hearts (AHAH).
About All Hands and Hearts (AHAH)
AHAH is a worldwide non-profit organization founded in 2017, the result of a merging of two long-running disaster relief programs, All Hands Volunteers, led by David Campbell, and Happy Hearts Fund, founded by Petra Němcová. As of late 2019, the organization has worked with over 58,000 volunteers, hailing from 45+ different countries across the world, and has consistently earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for 8 consecutive years. Hurricane Ian’s devastating impact called for unprecedented clean-up efforts, including tree and debris removal, gutting, and sanitizing damaged homes, as well as continuous critical repair work.
Cor Partners Joins Forces with AHAH
Upholding its values as a proudly people-centric organization, Cor Partners, parent company of Engle Martin, Eberl Claims Service, and Envista Forensics, partnered with AHAH to join in on the ongoing efforts to provide assistance to the many communities affected by the monumental storm. Cor Partners sponsored a select group of team members from each of its businesses to travel to Port Charlotte, Florida, in order to volunteer alongside the All Hands and Hearts recovery teams. In January 2023, the team set up their basecamp at a local church and were put right to work upon arrival. They were made responsible for a number of tasks, including the removal of damaged furniture and appliances, such as stoves, microwaves, and lamps, disassembling and disposing of cabinets and toilets, and much more.
“… I was tearing down old drywall, removing nails from the studs, and cleaning up trash. I was interested in doing this volunteer trip because I personally have never been affected by a hurricane, so I truly never saw or understood the devastation until I was presented with this opportunity,” said Cassandra Webb, Accounts Receivable Specialist with Envista Forensics. “It was humbling and I’m so grateful that I was able to spend my time making a difference. The homeowner of the property we did work with was so grateful for everything we were able to do in our short time. It truly felt so good to know that we were part of her story!”
When asked what attracted Brianna Balzer, Claims Administrator for Engle Martin, to volunteer with AHAH, she stated, “When this opportunity to work with AHAH and with other members of my team arose, I jumped at it. If we can take the moments we have and help other people, it makes the life we are living that much greater and gives a sense of purpose.” She went on to say, “One of my greatest passions and ideas in my life is to leave the world a little better than the way I found it. If I can help people who may be having a bad day or struggling through their current season of life, I want to be a driving force to help in any way that I can.”
For many participants, the Cor Partners inaugural trip was not their first dive into taking part in community-based volunteer work in their home states. Clayton Hein, Claims Manager with Eberl Claims Service, always felt a drive to get involved, echoing Brianna’s lifelong passion for volunteering. “… I’ve always been able to stay involved in my community with Meals-on-Wheels, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or our local church. I feel giving my time and energy is the most beneficial treasure I can share with others,” he wrote.
Haley Brockway, Staffing Specialist with Eberl Claims Service, also developed an interest in community service from an early age. She began her volunteer work with Best Buddies in 2012, an international non-profit that works to create opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “I grew up in Florida and had various friends impacted by the destruction of Hurricane Ian. When I saw the application to participate in a corporate volunteer mission with my Cor Partners teammates, I could not sign up fast enough!” Following her work on site in Port Charlotte, Haley spoke highly of her experience with the international disaster relief program. “AHAH is a one-of-a-kind non-profit organization, and it was truly an amazing opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, walk into an unfamiliar environment, and serve in a way that I have never experienced before,” she said.
As it moved inland, Hurricane Ian brought anywhere from 10 to 20 inches of rainfall in some areas of the Florida coast. According to local news reports, the surge of sea water rose to roughly 12 to 14 feet in Fort Myers alone. While many coastal and inland properties suffered from the irreparable damage brought on by Ian, volunteers were able to provide an occasional silver lining to affected property owners.
“We literally gutted 3 houses impacted by severe water intrusion. Lots of different tools and banging and kicking. We also had the opportunity to salvage some items for the property owners, things that could be cleaned and kept,” said Justine DeSenna, Senior Major Account Manager with Envista Forensics, calling these times “little glimmers of hope in the devastation.”
Yanwen Guo, Director of Applications and Integrations with Engle Martin, also had the opportunity to join the Cor Partners team during their work in Florida. When asked for a comment on his experience, he had this to say, “I drove around Fort Myers on the first day I arrived. Four months after the powerful, destructive, and deadly Hurricane Ian swept across the Southwest Florida, the remains of the destroyed houses are seen everywhere, and those who were impacted are still desperately waiting for help to recover.”
Speaking on his motivation to stay involved, Yanwen continued, “Compared with the power of nature, human beings’ strength is truly insignificant. Thus, we as human beings, we only can make this world a better place to live by supporting each other. Being a volunteer can provide me with a sense of purpose and fulfillment by making a positive impact on the lives of others and contributing to a greater cause. Being a volunteer would inspire me with a sense of responsibility to give back, it would also boost my gratitude and empathy by offering individuals a firsthand understanding of the challenges and struggles faced by others.”
Making an EMpact
During their time partnering with All Hands and Hearts, the team successfully contributed $8,690 dollars to the worthy cause, with Cor Partners deciding to match the amount with their own
donation. During GivingTuesday 2022, Cor Partners went on to match all contributions 4 times the original amount, bringing the total amount of dollars donated to a remarkable $30,664 for Hurricane Ian recovery efforts.