Home Depot Inc. is in a unique position among the Atlanta-based companies responding to the devastating earthquake that killed more than 240 people in Mexico this week.
The home improvement giant, which has 120 stores employing 15,000 people throughout Mexico, has the power to provide cash for immediate relief as well as tools for the long-term rebuilding. It’s giving both.
The Home Depot Foundation announced Thursday it would bring to $500,000 its monetary donations to areas struck by quakes in the last two weeks. That’s beyond the nearly $140,000 in materials like cement and galvanized sheet metal the company’s Mexican branch declared it would donate to help with rebuilding in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, which were hit with a separate quake Sept. 7 that left thousands homeless and killed nearly 100.
This Tuesday’s quake hit 75 miles southeast of Mexico City in the Puebla state, shaking buildings violently to the point that many collapsed across the national capital, burying people under the rubble.
The disaster set off a frenzy of grassroots rescue efforts as citizens in many cases formed human chains to remove debris in a desperate quest to unearth survivors.
About half the deaths have been suffered in the capital, and half in Puebla and other surrounding states. The quake came on the anniversary of a huge 1985 quake that killed more than 10,000 people. Earlier in the day annual safety drills were being conducted.
In response to the initial tremor, Home Depot’s Mexico team had already set up collection centers at 34 locations across five states for items like brooms, buckets, canned and dry goods, as well as toiletry items.
On its website, the Compromiso Naranja (Orange Commitment) effort allowed online customers outside the affected areas to buy items that would be added to the collections at these stores. There’s also Fondo Naranja, a fund set up to aid employees victimized by disasters.
The foundation’s additional donations were to be distributed through local nonprofits and international disaster-relief agencies, the company said Thursday.
“All of the associates of The Home Depot in Mexico, the United States and Canada support the great work the citizens and authorities have undertaken in the face of this difficult situation,” said Sergio Gutierrez, president of Home Depot Mexico, in a statement. “We will continue working to help our communities heal.”
Other Atlanta companies were reacting in their own ways to the dismal news of the past two weeks. After the first disaster, some local Atlanta manufacturers had already gone to check on affiliate Mexican plants and reassure staff on the ground.
When the second one hit, Delta Air Lines, which recently entered into a major joint venture with Aeromexico, issued travel waivers and sent “thoughts and prayers” to those affected. The airline said it would restart flight operations Wednesday after an evaluation of airport infrastructure.
Monte Galbraith, who heads up Columbus, Ga.-based Denim North America, said he’d been on the phone checking in with long-time customers he now considers friends, especially in Puebla. They were a bit shocked but not physically harmed.
“I’ve heard all the stories about where they were, what they were doing at the time and what they have seen,” Mr. Galbraith told Global Atlanta, noting that none of the company’s shipments had been interrupted.
United Parcel Service Inc., however, said it would put a hold on certain shipments within the affected area around Mexico City until the government indicated roads were safe.
“We are working to ensure the safety of our employees and to make sure all shipments are delivered to their final destinations as quickly as local conditions permit,” read a service notice on the company’s Mexico website.
The Consulate General of Mexico in Atlanta is asking concerned Atlantans who want to send gifts to visit http://comoayudar.mx/ for a list of approved organizations accepting donations.
Before the earthquake, Global Atlanta was already planning an event highlighting Atlanta’s ties with Mexico as part of an ongoing series focused on Latin America.
That event, Beyond the Border: Mexico On Its Own Terms, will go on with a renewed focus on the solidarity engendered by strong economic ties.
Learn more and register here.