Industry News | June 15, 2010

The Calm After the Storm

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On May 2, severe rainstorms hit Tennessee, resulting in one of the worst floods the state had ever seen. The Rich Products Corporation facility in Gallatin was no exception to the overwhelming number of Tennessee facilities that dealt with severe damage from the floodwaters.

“From the plant perspective,” says Charles Crutchfield, the plant’s manager, “we definitely have equipment damage, and we lost some total front offices. Primarily, it’s equipment damage to motors, gear boxes, electronic patrols, and more.”

Not only was the plant itself impacted, but so were several of its employees and their families. Many experienced total loss of cars, homes, and even their places of employment.

Despite having to deal with personal damages, Rich’s employees stepped up to help salvage the plant, no questions asked.

“As soon as the water receded, they were here immediately asking, ‘What can we do to get this plant back up and going?’” Crutchfield says.

The majority of work done to clean up the facility included sterilizing and sanitizing the entire plant and its equipment. Associates did their best to air out hardcopy files and furniture, but debris and destroyed documents were thrown out.

According to Dwight Gram, Rich’s vice president of communications, “The USDA inspector thought that it was going to be a minimum of a month and a half before this plant would be up and running again.” But employees worked around the clock to get the Gallatin plant back in working order in just 10 days.

Not only were local employees helping to repair the structural damage, but employees from every Rich’s plant across the country wanted to help the 14 Gallatin employees whose lives were severely impacted by the flood.

In less than two weeks, Rich’s employees raised more than $20,000 through gift raffles, bake sales, yard sales, cash donations, and other local fundraising events. Rich’s Corporate matched the amount of money raised, resulting in more than $40,000 going toward helping the plant employees and the surrounding community.

“There was no push from headquarters,” says Dave Konst, senior vice president of operations for Rich Products Corporation. “The associates rallied. Everything just came in, and I’m really astounded by the response we got.”

On June 10, Rich’s Corporate surprised the employees, distributing gift cards so the families could begin putting their lives back together.

“The thing I was most struck by was the silence,” Konst says about the distribution event. “Most of them were just dumbfounded, like, ‘What is going on here? Is this candid camera?’ I did get a lot of good hugs out of it, hugs and tears.”

Gram associates the heartfelt responses with Rich’s slogan. “Our brand’s tagline is: Caring for Customers like Only a Family Can, but we also view that as our battle cry internally,” he says. “We certainly treat each other as if we were members of an extended family.”

Because of the help of more than 75 associates who worked 5,653 hours to repair and clean up the damage, the Rich’s plant facility is running smoothly.

By Jill Watral

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