Although the recent Louisiana flooding has caused significant loss and disruption for many of our West Region associates, they continue to be an inspiration for all of UNITED .
Most recently, John Sherman, CEO, his wife Terry, and Linda Sewell, Corporate Director of Community Relations and Communications, returned with yet another amazing experience to share from their visit with our associates at Baton Rouge Coca-Cola, the local Coca-Cola bottler and West Region headquarters for Coca-Cola UNITED.
Last Friday, my wife Terry and I, along with Linda Sewell, had the opportunity to visit our Baton Rouge facility and hear firsthand of the devastating effects of last week’s floods. Let me start by expressing my gratitude to our HR associates who have the difficult task of meeting with our associates who have lost so much … and doing so with much love and care. Many tears have been shed and many hugs have been shared in our Coca-Cola UNITED Family in Louisiana.
During our visit, we met with about 100 employees personally and heard heartbreaking stories from associates who have lost everything. Many shared their emotional escapes that included being separated from their love ones, being evacuated from multiple shelters to once again escape flood waters, and a father and son who went days without food and water. One colleague, fighting back tears, told a story of a total stranger who asked if he could simply cry on his shoulder. What was equally remarkable, however, was the fighting spirit shown by each and every one we met to move forward through faith and hope. They are also very grateful to have the Coca-Cola UNITED family behind them, as well as the support of our larger Coca-Cola System and other important business partners.
The enduring spirit of our associates continues, and the Coca-Cola UNITED family has never been stronger.
I am pleased to report that our Baton Rouge facility is operating at full capacity, thanks to tremendous support provided by our neighboring Sales Centers. This past weekend, nearly 100 UNITED volunteers went to Baton Rouge to work beside our associates in their homes. This included removing flooring, sheetrock, and helping them mend and rebuild wherever possible. The generosity of the UNITED family and that of our Coca-Cola System and business partners continues to be amazing. Our Employee Relief Fund continues to grow, and disbursements will begin as soon as possible.
Nonetheless, the numbers are staggering and the recovery for our associates and our communities will be long and extensive. As of today, August 22nd, 204 of our Coca-Cola UNITED family members have lost or experienced significant damage to their homes and vehicles. I ask you to please continue your generous spirit. While hard goods are obviously needed, I respectfully ask that we refrain from sending such items to our facility as we simply don’t have the resources or capacity to handle.
Thank you for continuing to keep our colleagues and their families in your thoughts and prayers.