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Home improvement retailers help Hurricane Ike victims

As residents of Texas’s Gulf Coast try to recover from the fury of Hurricane Ike, the home improvement community is rallying to bring much-needed supplies to the millions who are still without power and who face a huge cleanup job ahead.

The 600-mile-wide Category 2 hurricane hit the greater Houston area early on Sept. 13, killing at least five people, destroying countless homes and knocking out power to millions of area residents. More than 2 million people remained without power on Sept. 15, and fallen trees and debris littered the streets of Houston, America’s fourth largest city.

Particularly hard-hit was Galveston, a barrier island about 50 miles south of Houston, where many homes and businesses were still under water, and there was no electricity, running water, sewage or telephone service.

HCN spoke to Jerry Lightfoot, owner of four hardware stores in the Galveston area (in Vidor, Lumberton, Vienna and Kirbyville). On the morning of Sept. 15, people were lined up outside his Vidor store -- which was missing some roof panels and had sustained warehouse damage -- and he was still letting them in just a few at a time.

“This is pure devastation. I’ve got a coastal home, and I don’t know whether or not it’s there anymore,” said Lightfoot, who buys from both Orgill and Handy Harware. “Handy just made a delivery, and by the end of today, we will have sold more than 400 generators and distributed four semi-loads of supplies from Orgill’s distribution center in Kilgore.”

At press time, Home Depot had reopened 47 of 53 stores that had temporarily shut down in Houston, Galveston and Beaumont and had more than 300 truckloads of product moving into those communities “to help meet customer needs,” spokesman Craig Fishel told Home Channel News.

The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer also announced it is donating $1 million to recovery and rebuilding efforts in response to Hurricane Ike through the Home Depot Foundation. The money will be used as follows: $200,000 to the American Red Cross for immediate recovery aid for Houston and the communities along the Gulf Coast; $100,000 in cleanup materials for locally organized community volunteer efforts, including the activation of Team Depot, the company’s associate volunteer program; and $700,000 to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) for rebuilding efforts in communities affected by Hurricane Ike.

According to a report issued by Reuters prior to the hurricane, Walmart had planned to temporarily close 114 stores in Texas and nine in Louisiana in anticipation of the storm, while Lowe’s was set to shut down 17 stores in Ike’s path. By the morning of Sept. 14, many of these stores had reopened and had long lines of customers waiting outside to buy generators, batteries and various cleanup supplies.

True Value said that in the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Ike, the Chicago-based co-op’s regional distribution center in Corsicana, Texas, delivered 10 emergency retail orders to member stores within the projected impact area. On Sept. 14 and 15, the DC fulfilled additional orders for nearly 24 consecutive hours, sending out approximately 14 truckloads of emergency supplies such as sand bags, wet/dry vacs, mops, extension cords, flashlights and sump pumps, the company said.

Walmart has announced it will donate $2.5 million to assist with relief efforts related to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer’s commitment -- a combination of cash and merchandise donations -- will support such organizations as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Feeding America, the Texas Disaster Relief Fund and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

The Walmart Foundation has also allocated more than $2 million in grants to help store associates who have sustained damage to their homes. And the company committed three tractor-trailers and drivers to assist in delivering relief supplies to affected areas.

In addition, many individual Walmart stores were contributing to the cause by donating ice and water to citizens; bug spray and flashlights to police officers, firefighters and National Guardsmen; blankets and bedding to area shelters; and towels to rescue workers pulling people out of flood waters, Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman told Home Channel News.