By the time Category 4 Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana in late August, leaving many flooded and without electricity, the KW Cares team was mobilized and ready to provide disaster relief. “The Thursday before the storm hit, we started meeting,” shares KW Cares CEO Alexia Rodriguez. “We met every day, twice a day, taking information from the folks that were boots on the ground in Louisiana, and, over in Austin, doing all the coordination efforts to ensure their needs were being met.”
The pre-storm preparedness paid off. For the first time, the team stood up three command centers in Louisiana, packed with supplies for those affected. “In the past, we have only needed one command center per hurricane, but this storm was so widespread and devastating that it necessitated three,” shares Rodriguez. “Through our board member and disaster relief task force leader Dawn Cazedessus and her team, we were able to distribute more than 1,000 generators – more than we handed out in all of the hurricanes we responded to in 2020 combined.”
As those affected began assessing their damages and reaching out for help, the 50-person team on the ground in Louisiana, as well as three groups of volunteers in the Austin area, got to work. On the ground, the team provided generators, tarps, extension cords, gas cans, coolers, and masks, among other supplies. In Austin, 47 trained volunteers helped manage the crisis line, fielding as many as 500 calls per day by conducting intakes and generating fund requests. Support from board members, Keller Mortgage, KWU, the events department, and kwx leadership made it an incredible team effort. “It was true teamwork and beautiful to see our culture in action,” says Rodriguez.
In addressing the immediate aftermath, the team’s focus was razor-sharp. “Essentially, I turned my living room into a mini command center,” remembers Rodriguez. Helping an estimated two thousand families doesn’t come without a put-together system. “What we do at KW Cares is primarily three things: We are answering the crisis line, an effort led by my team and our trained volunteers who answer the calls and process the grants,” Rodriguez shares. “The other half is the coordination of supplies. We have a warehouse here in Austin with supplies and our own branded 18-wheelers. We also focus on coordinating and paying contractors to tarp roofs and do debris removal.”
While 60% of the work done by KW Cares is for ‘regular grants’ – those offered in case of life events such as a car accident, or a difficult health diagnosis – the organization also provides disaster relief grants in the sum of $5,000 per person to team members and their families. “Many other companies have similar funds, but they don’t cover nearly the amount of employees,” says Rodriguez. “For instance, KW Cares covers not just the team member, or agent, or associate, but their spouse, their parents (including in-laws), their kids (including adult children), and siblings. I think that’s a really remarkable aspect of KW Cares.”
In the context of Hurricane Ida, this relief looks like more than $2.7 million: $1.3 million in disaster relief grants, and $1.4 million in supplies, contractors for tarping and debris removal, and supply shipment expenses. “The total of our financial support for this storm is still growing,” Rodriguez shares. “We expect to continue providing financial assistance to our KW families that were hit hardest by awarding them with our regular grants (up to $30,000) in the coming weeks.”
The Fundraising Never Stops
Providing relief in times of crisis and being able to help team members and their families through life’s hardships requires a constant replenishment of the financial resources that are integral to rebuilding during hard times. For this reason, fundraising is on the minds of not just the integral KW Cares team, but also for the associates that want to give back.
Rodriguez shares: “I got a call from KW agent Mike Duley who wanted to do a virtual fundraiser to help replenish our financial resources. After Hurricane Ida, he had already put the list of speakers together for this event.” This list included several mega agents and leaders such as Gary Keller, Mo Anderson, Marc King, and Jason Abrams. With a quick turnaround time, the September 30 event “100x Your Real Estate Business” came to fruition, benefiting the KW Cares Rebuilding the Reserves campaign. Raising more than $170,000 in funds, the event’s success extended beyond a monetary one: Agents were able to benefit from rapid style discussions on personal strategies and practices for accelerating growth and success.