One year after nearly 200 tornadoes touched down in the Southeast, killing 340 people, an Alabama-based quick-serve chain is doing its part to raise money and hope for the communities that were affected.

Jack’s, based in Birmingham, Alabama, is participating in the Bo Bikes Bama campaign, in which sports legend Bo Jackson is biking 300 miles across Alabama to raise $1 million for the state’s Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

Alabama was hit hardest by the April 27, 2011, tornadoes. Some 55 tornadoes claimed the lives of 238 people in the state.

Jack’s is helping Bo Bikes Bama as a corporate cosponsor and through food donations. The company also created the “Messages of Hope” program, which lets community members add messages or artwork to a 10-foot-by-10-foot wall that travels along with Jackson’s campaign.

Pam Measel, director of marketing for Jack’s, says the chain raised around $163,000 last year for the American Red Cross and Salvation Army through its “Circle of Hope” program, but wanted to continue to raise support.

“This year … we wanted to do something where we could have people write messages of hope, whether it be to remember a loved one, whether it be to congratulate the state and where we are,” Measel says.

Though no Jack’s restaurants were severely damaged in the storms, nor were any employees lost, Measel says the tragedy struck home for the company. It took weeks, she says, to account for all employees, many of whom had lost homes or family members.

“It was on such a personal level on every different plane; you’re worried about your restaurants, you’re worried about your employees, you’re worried about your customers,” she says.

While Jack’s will continue to participate in events that raise money and support for tornado victims—“The typical time is five to 10 years to totally be rebuilt” after a storm, Measel says—the company also learned important operational lessons from the storm that it implemented across its system.

“We certainly have made some internal changes with emergency procedures and weather radios and things of that nature, to try to be more prepared,” she says.

By Sam Oches

Charitable Giving, News, Jack's