Helping communities recover
By Ashleigh Petersen

Helping communities recover

Manufacturers donate time and equipment

After a disaster strikes, help often comes from many places — neighbors lend a hand; companies donate food, water and other necessities; and volunteers travel across the country to help. Several manufacturers and suppliers in the equipment and event rental industry have found a variety of ways to help out.

Jeff Rufener, president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling

When Jeff Rufener, president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling, Columbus, Ind., and his team began reassessing the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, they found the American Red Cross to be the perfect partner. Previously the company had donated time and money to various organizations, but Rufener says the company needed a new direction and a better way to increase their impact on the community.

Toyota Material Handling and the Red Cross started their partnership in 2018. Since then, the company has contributed on several different levels through monetary donations and by volunteering in their local community — including hosting blood drives, installing smoke detectors in homes and creating supply kits for those who are forced to evacuate their home overnight. Toyota Material Handling also provides national support to the Red Cross when it responds to natural disasters. To do that, the company relies on its dealer network which has 30,000 pieces of rental equipment throughout the United States and Canada.

Photos courtesy of Toyota Material Handling

“We told the Red Cross that we will provide material handling equipment to support disaster relief for any disaster in the United States. We don’t pick and choose what disasters we support. The Red Cross tells us where they need our equipment. Since mid-to-late 2018, we have provided equipment for 19 different disasters,” Rufener says.

Through the partnership, Toyota provides a central contact to the Red Cross. When a disaster hits, the Red Cross contacts that associate and she reaches out to the dealers in that area to see how they can help.

“When our team was contemplating a partnership, they saw all the logistical challenges of getting water, food, clothing and shelter. Surely most of that is moved on pallets and that is what we do. With our dealer organization, we are in proximity of virtually every disaster that’s occurring in the United States,” Rufener says.

“The Red Cross said, ‘Can you have the equipment we need there within 24 hours?’ We said, ‘Absolutely.’ I don’t think we have even come close to it taking 24 hours. It’s literally there within hours,” he says.

In nearly every instance, the Toyota dealer has been able to dispatch in necessary equipment. In the limited times where the dealer does not have a particular model of machine or the correct quantity, Toyota Material Handling will provide the equipment.

“We are there to support them financially but that has not been required. These are the local communities where these dealers live. They are happy to do this. We simply open the door with our relationship with the Red Cross and the dealers are very appreciative of this opportunity. They’re looking for active CSR programs just like we are,” he adds.

Photos courtesy of Case Construction Equipment

Case Construction Equipment, Racine, Wis., which has been working with Team Rubicon — a veteran-led disaster response organization — since 2015, also relies on its dealer network to lend support.

“Team Rubicon has a process aligned with FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], that determines where and how their teams respond to disasters. They also identify other non-emergency community support missions aligned to their values. When it is determined that heavy equipment is needed — usually compact track loaders or excavators — our team will identify equipment availability from company or dealer inventory,” says Athena Campos, senior director of market development — North America, Case.

Campos says the company’s dealer network plays a critical role in the partnership.

“All throughout North America, our dealers have stepped up to provide equipment and service to Team Rubicon operations in partnership with Case,” she says. “They take great pride in this because, much of the time, the work is being done in their local area. So, this partnership has been a great way for dealers to give back to their respective communities and make a difference locally with a veteran-based organization that is nationally recognized.”

The partnership kicked off six years ago when Team Rubicon was looking for a way to train their volunteers on operating equipment. Case now helps in numerous ways, beyond operator training and disaster response.

“The relationship continues to grow each year. Team Rubicon has become a strategic focus of the CNH Industrial Foundation’s Community Disaster Support fund. Many Case colleagues, as well as CNH Industrial employees across our sister brands, have become Team Rubicon volunteers, participating in everything from heavy equipment operations to COVID-19 vaccine distribution support,” Campos adds.

At John Deere, Moline, Ill., the company and the John Deere Foundation have worked to help communities rebuild after being ravaged by hurricanes. In 2017, Deere & Co. made a $1 million cash donation to support Habitat Hammers Back, a long-term recovery initiative organized by Habitat for Humanity International, to help repair and rebuild communities hit by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Photo courtesy of John Deere

The John Deere Foundation has a long history of support for Habitat for Humanity to recover from disasters, big and small. In 2020 alone, the John Deere Foundation invested more than $500,000 in Habitat for Humanity projects throughout its home communities. John Deere employees provided nearly 14,500 hours of volunteerism on Habitat for Humanity projects in 2019 and 2020. This produced an additional $250,000 in support for the Habitat for Humanity network through the John Deere Foundation’s Dollars for Doers program.

The John Deere Enterprise Disaster Support Program offers financial support for Deere equipment dealers in the form of rental subsidies, depreciation compensation, demonstration discounts or similar funding, allowing dealers to provide equipment for use in disaster support and recovery areas in their local communities.

“John Deere offers this program to help our dealers quickly respond to disasters,” says Nate Clark, director of strategic communications, Deere & Co., and president of the John Deere Foundation. “The program brings together John Deere, dealers, customers and nonprofit or governmental organizations when disasters strike, putting John Deere equipment to good use.”

When deciding how to help and which organization to partner with, Rufener at Toyota Material Handling says, “If I were advising companies that are evaluating their CSR effort, I would say look at what you are most professional at, what your core competency is, and pick something that aligns with that journey. What we provide to the Red Cross is a tremendous value to them but it’s what we do. This is not a stretch for us. We provide equipment to move material, so we are very able to do that for them,” he says.

“I would just say align your core competency with the nonprofits’ needs. Think about that. It is more than if it is just a good cause. Certainly, it is a good cause, but can I really help them? Can I really leverage what I do best to multiply the value that I’m providing?” Rufener says.

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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