Melaleuca Awarded 2008 Circle of Humanitarians
The Red Cross awarded Melaleuca the Circle of Humanitarians Award for the company's overwhelming response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. President and CEO Frank L. VanderSloot accepted the award on behalf of Melaleuca, its Marketing Executives, customers and employees. Less than a year ago, Melaleuca also received the Others Award, the highest national award given by the Salvation Army, for its Katrina efforts.
"Melaleuca showed what one group of good people can do in a disaster," Frank says. "You can't solve all of the problems, but you can make a difference for somebody, and Melaleuca made quite a difference for a lot of people in the Gulf region."
Melaleuca collected more than $1 million and divvied it up between the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Melaleuca's own efforts to send aid to people suffering in the hurricane's wake.
"Donations from generous corporations like Melaleuca are critical to this relief effort," says Red Cross Governor Steve Carr. "They demonstrate the enormous power of the human spirit."
When it came to Hurricane Katrina, Melaleuca moved quickly to align itself with the third part of Red Cross' three-tiered motto: Prevent, Prepare and Respond. Within minutes of the hurricane's landfall, Frank established a plan to create a relief center in Idaho Falls to send aid to Louisiana. Melaleuca collected clothing, food, blankets and children's toys and shipped them more than 2,000 miles to hurricane victims.
"We presented the award for what everybody—Melaleuca customers across the country and employees in Idaho Falls—did for the victims of Hurricane Katrina," says Idaho Falls Red Cross CEO Shawn Tolman. "The Red Cross is funded by donations, and when we respond to disasters, we're volunteering our time to help. This award is specifically for major financial sponsors like Melaleuca."
The Melaleuca Foundation, which previously aided victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, distributed the monetary donations to the different organizations in need. Besides helping victims of disasters, the Foundation is now funding an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador.
"Melalueca saw their own kin in the eyes of Katrina's victims," said Idaho Lt. Governor Jim Risch. "Frank and his company showed the world the caliber of people and businesses we have in the state of Idaho."
The responsibility to help those in need is something Frank took personally during those months. 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. "I asked, ‘Where are you and your wife and two children going to go?' And he said, ‘I don't know. My credit cards aren't working because my bank is underwater.'"
Frank 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."
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."