Long after hurricanes and tornadoes fade from news headlines, destruction and shattered lives remain.
John Pyles is one of 113 Lowe’s employee relief team members from stores in Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia who helped jumpstart rebuilding in communities affected by the fifth-most destructive hurricane in history – Matthew.
As the storm skirted along the Atlantic coastline, rainfall estimated at three to five inches an hour flooded homes in eastern North Carolina. Buzz saw-like winds downed trees and left many coastal area homes broken like twigs.
Lowe’s stores and employees were affected, too. When Pyles and his fellow relief team members reached Rincon, Georgia, electricity was out and the store was using its emergency generator for power. The store was serving meals for employees and their families who had no electricity to cook or operate refrigerators at home.
The relief team was there to help. Trained employee volunteers travel by car and vans, sometimes hundreds of miles, to support stores in communities affected by disasters or crisis. Relief teams deploy and provide extra help to serve customers.
Relief team members understand that disasters affect more than trees and power lines – they affect people. Relief team members understand when customers are fatigued by the rigors of devastation, and when employees whose own homes are affected need time away from work to attend to personal needs.
Daily, truckloads of emergency supplies customers need to repair their homes arrive at stores. Relief teams help unload it and stock shelves. Each relief team works two weeks in the stores they’re helping.
Pyles, an assistant store manager at Lowe’s of Marianna, Florida, says the days can be long, but they’re always rewarding.
“Every disaster is different. When we reach the store we’re assigned to help, the first thing we do is walk the store with the manager to see where we’re needed most,” Pyles said. “We’re there to lighten the load as much as we can.”
He joined Lowe’s in 2004. When Hurricane Katrina hit, he saw co-workers deployed on relief teams. Hearing their stories inspired him to volunteer for a relief team when he had the chance. Since then, Pyles has served on teams deployed to disasters in Tallahassee, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Rincon and Savannah, Georgia.
In Baton Rouge, he saw mounds of debris, closed roads and houses gutted with floodwater. There, he and fellow relief team members worked through the night cleaning and stocking shelves so the store would be filled with critically needed supplies when it opened the next morning.
Pyles said his wife, Katrina, daughters Lani, Autumn and Samantha, and granddaughter Hazel understand his mission and know that when he leaves them, he’s helping his Lowe’s family and other families just like theirs.
“We hate for these storms to come, but we’re ready to help whenever we’re called,” Pyles said.