Salvation Army presents Melaleuca with highest national civic award
The Salvation Army awarded Melaleuca Inc. its highest national civic award for Melaleuca’s lightning-fast response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005. CEO Frank L. VanderSloot accepted “The Others Award” on behalf of Melaleuca Inc., its Marketing Executives, customers and employees.
Only minutes after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, turning thriving New Orleans into a ghost town and destroying properties across much of Louisiana, phone calls started pouring into Melaleuca from people asking questions like, “What is Melaleuca going to do?” and “What can we do?”
Melaleuca’s rapid response
What they didn’t know was President and CEO Frank L. VanderSloot had already met with the company’s management and decided to establish a relief center in Idaho Falls, more than 2,000 miles from New Orleans.
Frank met with news agencies and announced Melaleuca was accepting donations of food, blankets, children’s toys, and clothing. He then contracted truckers from Andrus Trucking, a longtime trucker for Melaleuca, to drive those donations to Louisiana.
While the community of Idaho Falls mobilized, Melaleuca announced a fund for Marketing Executives, customers and employees to donate money. And then Melaleuca went one step further by matching every dollar donated. The eventual sum totaled more than $1 million and was divided between the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, food and supplies.
Soon after the storm, the first donation truck from Southeast Idaho rolled into town, bringing a flash of hope to a mourning region. Within three days, 13 more truckloads followed, distributing goods, blessing lives, and bringing comfort to stranded families. Idaho companies donated food and goods (including 9,000 pounds of processed Idaho potatoes) while Andrus Trucking kept their wheels moving.
“Frank and his company showed the world the caliber of the people and businesses we have in the state of Idaho,” said Idaho Lt. Governor Jim Risch at the awards presentation. “Melaleuca saw their own kin in the eyes of Katrina’s victims, and […] opened its pocketbook, opened its heart and saved lives. They were heroes.”
Even as the rebuilding began, the donations kept rolling in. Struggling for some degree of normalcy, Louisianans looked to the future and tried to piece together the shards of their lives. Some have since returned to Louisiana; some haven’t. But the good accomplished by the CEO, Marketing Executives, customers, and employees of Melaleuca didn’t slip out of memory. Those in Louisiana know they’ve been helped, and they knew who helped them.
Unexpectedly, the Salvation Army contacted Melaleuca recently to announce it was presenting Melaleuca with ‘The Others Award,’ for its commitment to helping others. It wasn’t the first time Melaleuca has stepped forward when others were suffering, and it certainly won’t be the last. Earlier in the decade, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, tragedy, Marketing Executives and employees united in a similar fashion to help victims of terrorism in New York.
Helping ambulance crews
President and CEO Frank L. VanderSloot also contacted several of his connections with ambulance companies in Montana shortly after the disaster, and, almost immediately, two fully crewed ambulances, paid for by Melaleuca, departed for Louisiana.
But when they arrived, they discovered the need was much greater and different than they had imagined—hundreds of New Orleans ambulances were attempting to operate without supplies while the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was bogged down with red tape and unable to help.
When word got back to Frank, he used his connections again, this time to dodge the red tape by ordering ambulance supplies directly from suppliers (also paid for by Melaleuca), and shipping them to directly to FEMA so FEMA could supply 150 ambulances. While FEMA struggled with bureaucracy for approving expenditures, Frank took those much-needed materials directly to the source. The ambulance crews remained in the region for months before returning to their homes in the West.
Bringing a family home
Days after the Katrina Disaster, Frank found himself in nearby Oklahoma on business. Frank’s attention turned quickly to the desperate situation only a state away.
“We didn’t know what we were doing,” Frank says, reflecting on his choice to help out that day. “We just decided to do something. We had an airplane, and we were within an hour’s flight of New Orleans, so we decided to go see if we could do something.”
Frank and some friends visited a grocery store before flying into Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They asked airport officials where they could find the nearest shelter for hurricane evacuees and headed there as fast as they could with the food. Once in the building, Frank began asking around.
“I saw this man in a group with three women and six children, and I asked him about his situation,” Frank says. “He said he needed to get the children and two of the women—his mother-in-law and sister-in-law—to family in California. I asked, ‘Where are you and your wife and two children going to go?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, I just need to help my mother-in-law and sister-in-law get to California, and then I’ll figure out what to do with my family. But my credit cards aren’t working because my bank is underwater.'”
Frank arranged for tickets for his extended family and then asked, “Why don’t you come back to Idaho with us? We’ll send you back home whenever you want to leave.” After thinking about it for the night, Terrence called Frank and said, “We would like to go with you to Idaho Falls.” Terrence, his wife, Trulisha, and their children, Terineaka and Terrence Jr., boarded the plane with Frank and flew to Idaho Falls.
“I was relieved for my family,” Terrence says. “I was happy they didn’t have to go through the suffering everyone else in New Orleans was going through.”
When word got out that there was a family from Louisiana in Idaho Falls, the Crawfords became instant celebrities with the Southeast Idaho news media. Because of the news coverage, Terrence found work quickly, while Terineaka and Terrence Jr. enrolled in local schools, and Trulisha took a position at Melaleuca’s Customer Care Center. They lived with the VanderSloots for a little more than a year.
“They became part of the family,” Frank says. “They went to church with us, they ate dinner with us, and Terrence and I played a lot of ping pong—we were pretty evenly matched.”
After a year, Terrence decided it was time to see what was left of his home in Louisiana. “You still see empty homes, grass as high as people’s waists, and all kinds of debris in the streets,” he says. “You still see stray pets and a bunch of trailers. You walk by your neighbor’s house and wonder if they’re back.”
Remembering the kindness of the VanderSloot family
Now part of a brave community rebuilding New Orleans, Terrence says he’ll always remember the kindness of the VanderSloot family, who gave his family a place to stay when they had nowhere else to go.
“Hurricane Katrina hurt a lot of people, including my family,” he says. “But it also blessed us. There’s a whole other world beyond New Orleans, and it’s in Idaho.”
Press release about the award
The Salvation Army Presents Melaleuca with Highest National Civic Award
Melaleuca Recognized For Its Hurricane Relief and Charitable Work
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho, May 22, 2007 – The Idaho Falls Center of The Salvation Army will honor Melaleuca with the organization’s highest national civic award, The Others Award, at the annual National Salvation Army Luncheon on May 23.
The meaning of this prestigious award dates back to when The Salvation Army’s founder used the word “others” to describe the non-profit’s selfless mission. It recognizes the individuals and businesses who first think of others before themselves.
The Salvation Army nominated Melaleuca for leading a regional donation drive and for purchasing vital medical equipment and supplies to benefit Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims. The company and its independent marketing executives contributed more than $1 million to hurricane victims, while co-gathering enough food, water, clothing and emergency supplies to fill 11 semi-trucks for Gulf Coast residents.
Reaching out to one family in need, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot helped New Orleans’ Ninth Ward evacuees Terrence and Trulisha Crawford by offering them a place to live, a job to get back on their feet and a car to drive. VanderSloot met the family by happenstance at a shelter in Baton Rouge just after they had lost everything. They ended up moving to Idaho Falls and living with the VanderSloot family for over a year.
The non-profit also recognized Melaleuca for supporting the annual bell-ringing fundraiser, sponsoring the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration on Independence Day and contributing in various ways toward enhancing the community and the nation.
“Idaho Falls remains a community where helping others is still part of our culture,” said Jonathan Cederberg, fundraising coordinator for The Salvation Army. “Certainly, Melaleuca has consistently demonstrated this spirit of generosity, proving that we can all make a difference in the lives of others.”
Melaleuca is only the second company from Southeast Idaho to receive this national award, with Idaho National Laboratory receiving it in May 2006.
“Our business was founded on the principle of enhancing lives and helping people achieve their potential,” VanderSloot said. “With the enthusiasm of our 2,500 employees and our vast network of independent business builders across the U.S. and Canada, we can work together with The Salvation Army to make miracles happen not only here in Idaho Falls but literally around the world.”
About The Salvation Army
Organized in 1878 by William Booth, The Salvation Army provides services for more than 30 million people each year. Membership consists of 3,500 officers, 60,000 employees, 113,000 soldiers, 430,000 adherents and more than 3.5 million volunteers. Visit www.salvationarmyusa.org for more information.