Last week I had an opportunity to check in with several Houston-based DocuSign employees and learn firsthand how they have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey. I won’t lie — I was pretty nervous to call people in a crisis situation, as I didn’t want to be an additional burden or take precious time away from relief and recovery efforts. However, I was assured by a close friend who had been in several crises that calls are rarely unwelcome, as it’s nice to know that people care.

While it was devastating to hear what our employees, their family and friends have gone through — and are continuing to go through in the Gulf region — it is inspiring to know many of our DocuSign employees are already giving back to the communities where they live and work, despite their own hardships. Here are some of their stories.  

Tracy Beam

First, I spoke with Tracy Beam, a principal digital strategist on our DocuSign Customer Success Team. She recently moved to Houston with her husband Cy. Tracy had just finished sorting through her closets — grabbing clothes, towels, food and water —  to donate to help others in need.

“My husband and I lived through Katrina, and when we moved to Houston, we purposely bought a house on high ground. Now that we’ve weathered some of the worst of the storm, we’re taking whatever we don’t need to the drop zone at the edge of the water for people in need. We will do whatever we can do to help out.

“During a crisis it’s so important for families to provide their children with some sense of normalcy,” she continued. “Getting kids back into school is a large part of providing a semblance of normalcy in the near-term. Some of the challenges our school districts will face are shortage of facilities, teachers, classroom materials, etc. Non-impacted areas will suffer from overcrowding and impromptu classrooms for an extended period of time. As a board member of the Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas, our goal will be to get JA back to normal operations as soon as possible to support getting kids back into a routine and having structure. Even if that means that the classroom is inside a FEMA trailer. In the interim, JA leadership plans to dedicate its staff and facilities as much as possible to help with the recovery.”

When Hurricane Harvey hit, Tracy asked for the DocuSign IMPACT matching gift program cap to be raised, and Amy Skeeter-Behrens, executive director of the Global DocuSign IMPACT initiative, agreed. Additionally, Amy announced our Docusign IMPACT program is doubling all employee donations to the American Red Cross through September 8, 2017. That total has now surpassed $27K as of Tuesday, September 4.

Angie Halderman

Next, I reached out to Angie Halderman, a director on our Business Development and Strategic Alliances Team. Angie is our Texas DocuSign IMPACT leader and had reached out to Amy Skeeters-Behrens to see what the company might be able to do to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

“Amy asked me to speak about the situation in Houston on our monthly DocuSign IMPACT call. I explained how people can get creative in their giving efforts, both monetarily and voluntarily. As a board member at CompUDopt, we were very innovative in quickly adding value to so many displaced Texans. On Tuesday CompUDopt opened a 20+ computer station at the Kids Zone at the George R Brown Convention Center, and by the end of the day we had added two more labs for adults to fill out their FEMA applications, check emails, etc.  Wednesday we were featured on Good Morning America and set up the 3 labs at GRB again and were asked to figure out how to set up labs at NRG Stadium. A donor gave us a large contribution to go buy new laptops to support the lab at NRG.

“The community outreach has been amazing. We received 3,000 laptops from a new donor, made an impact with more than 100 volunteers (the vast majority new to our organization), deepened relationships with our partners, made countless connections including building a great relationship with Microsoft team members, and generally did a phenomenal job of executing our mission, giving back, and truly engaging and living up to the term Community Organization. We estimate that we enabled about 3,200 people per day with access to technology inside the shelters. Evacuees told us that these computers are their gateway to the outside world. The technology available has helped them feel normal and forget their situation for a moment. It has connected them with family they hadn’t yet been able to connect with, and let them share their own stories.”

Angie recommended that for those employees not based in Houston, they might consider volunteering at their local animal shelters. A friend who volunteers at the Seattle Humane Shelter called Angie and said they could use help fostering or adopting the hundreds of animals they have received from Texas. Other cities around the country are receiving animals displaced from Hurricane Harvey.

When I asked how it was going, she said, “It’s going to be a long road to recovery for Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast area. I finally got out of Houston after the airports reopened for a surprise birthday party we had planned for our mother several months ago. This will be the first night I’ve slept in a long time.”

Julie Shepard

I also spoke with Julie Shepard, an associate vice president for the Enterprise Sales Team and Houston-based employee. She described the devastation caused by the storm, her relief efforts, and how she and others were helping keep DocuSign employees safe.

“As I was monitoring the storm, it was so important to be sure the DocuSign team was safe. I reached out to all Houston-based and surrounding area employees, across all lines of business at DocuSign, and confirmed everyone was OK. I continued to keep in constant communication with the DocuSign employees and was at the ready to help. I was also impressed on how the team came together to help our customers and to confirm they too were safe.”

Julie also gave me a firsthand account of the devastation in Houston and the surrounding areas:   

“The Woodlands was not nearly affected as Houston proper. Therefore, we have not been as close to seeing the devastating impact in Houston. Houston is still evacuating certain areas of the city despite the fact that Harvey has moved East. Houston-based friends have told me many homes have been destroyed and lives have been changed forever. But, Houston residents are resilient and we will help each other get through this catastrophic event.”

She also shared how DocuSign employees are working together with nonprofits to help strengthen the relief efforts in Houston:

“Providing funding for key organizations is critical to helping those in need. Several DocuSign employees have been donating to Team Rubicon, Red Cross and other organizations. In addition, the CSA/TCSM teams came together and helped a large Houston-based company create a digital process to accelerate the loan funding process for their employees who have been affected by Harvey. This effort makes me so proud to work here at DocuSign, as this team came together to help a customer, and their employees, in a time of crisis and need.

“As of today, it is estimated Harvey will cost ~ $160B. However, we are so early in understanding the devastating impact that it’s difficult to say how much it will ultimately cost. One community in Houston has closed schools for this year and are looking for alternate options for these children. The recovery will last years for some communities.”

Julie also took advantage of the DocuSign IMPACT Matching Gifts program to help support other Houston residents. “I donated to Team Rubicon and will continue to donate to their organizations and directly to families that need financial assistance,” she said.

Finally, Julie offered her advice to non Houston-based DocuSign employees looking to help:

“Let’s continue to help our customers help their employees. To this end, DocuSign SVP of Customer Success Lambert Walsh is spearheading an effort to provide services to our customers to help their own employees and customers. This includes: Encouraging volunteering in Houston and the surrounding areas; continuing the matching program; working together to brainstorm on ideas where we can continue to provide assistance; and executive outreach to our customers.”

For customers in Houston, Galveston, Beaumont and the Gulf regions of Texas and Louisiana impacted by Hurricane Harvey, you may request support from DocuSign’s Customer Success team for help with digitizing forms, accelerating workflows, automating routings and more to help your organization and your employees get back up and running. Email [email protected] for more details.

Mark LeBlanc:

Next I spoke with Mark LeBlanc, a strategic enterprise account executive for DocuSign based on Houston:

“This is by far the worst devastation from flooding I have ever seen. Having lived on the Gulf Coast my entire life and having experienced many hurricanes over the years, I have never seen this much rain, or this much water.

“When a catastrophic event like this occurs, the local community is first to respond. We have donated food, clothes, shoes, sheets, towels, household products, anything that a family who has lost everything could use. Volunteering to transport, sort, pack, and deliver items to those in need are just a few of the acts of kindness we and our neighbors have participated in over the past week.”

When I asked him how long he thought it would take for things to return to normal, he said, “The greater Houston area, and the Texas Gulf Coast will take months, if not years, to fully recover for all that were affected.”

However, he’s already donated food, clothing, and his time, and encourages non-Houston based DocuSign employees to take advantage of the matching gifts program: “Monetary donations are the best way to help for non-local employees.”

Loyd Bacani:

I spoke with Loyd Bacani, a Houston-based senior technical project manager at DocuSign. He described the aftermath of the storm to me:

“[There’s been] so much devastation and loss of life, homes, businesses, properties, pets, livestock, and other precious possessions that can’t be replaced like photographs, love letters, and more.

“The moment I knew it would hit Texas hard, I started communicating with two nonprofit organizations

— one local and one global. Initially, as the wind and rain died down, we donated basic necessities such as food, blankets, clothing, etc. to local shelters and evacuation centers. When it was safe to go out, I assembled a team of volunteers and started working with  All Hands Volunteer in gutting flooded houses, removing debris, furniture, appliances, carpets, tiles, wood floors and drywall that would cause further damage if not removed. We save the homeowners an estimated cost of $3K-$5K+ by this service alone. Normally, this type work is not included in any flood insurance.”

When I asked how long he thought it would take for things to return to normal, Loyd said: “It will be a few years. Hurricane Harvey disrupted the way of living, homes, schools, and businesses. I read a CNN article that said the total loss was estimated at $75 Billion and the death toll continues to rise.”

He also shared his thoughts on how non-Houston based employees can help:

“Ask a Texas-based DocuSign employee, such as myself, or a Texas-based organization, on what is the most needed in the affected communities. Examples could include mailing local organizations boxes of basic necessities such as baby diapers and canned foods or non-perishable items.  You can also take your DocuSign VTO and volunteer to an organization like All Hands Volunteer or Red Cross.

Below are some photos taken by Loyd Bacani:

Tiffany Person

While not Houston-based, Tiffany Person, a strategic account executive for Enterprise Sales, is just one example of a DocuSign employee helping to rally recovery efforts. When asked about her advice, she said, “I feel it’s important as coworkers and fellow Americans that we ‘rally our local troops’ to send donations. Whether it be money, clothes, food, school supplies, etc…rally people from your churches, schools, neighborhood and social circles. People WANT to help — and every little bit helps. Kindness and support go a long way. Our DocuFamily is here to support you!”

Sharing these stories of our DocuSign employees makes me feel instantly connected and proud of the individuals who are living proof of our company values. Personally, I can’t wait to see each of them in person and give each and everyone a huge hug.

How are you helping aid the relief and recovery efforts? Do you have suggestions for how others can help. Please share in the comments below.