If you had to leave your home quickly, what would be your priority? What would you take? What is most important to you?
On January 13, 2019, Gabriella Hueston had to make that decision. After a normal day as a project coordinator at the Lowe’s call center in Indianapolis, Indiana, Gabby came home to her boyfriend, Zach and 1-year-old child, Levi.
Shortly after getting settled, the smoke alarm went off. Then smoke started coming through the vents and light fixtures. About that time, a neighbor knocked on the door and told them the building was on fire.
Her first priority: get her family to safety.
“All I thought was, I had to keep my child safe and I had to keep him warm,” Gabby said.
She grabbed three things: car keys, a coat and shoes for her son. As Gabby and Levi left, Zach started knocking on doors and telling people to get out. That night, five area fire departments battled the two-alarm fire in Wayne Township. And thanks to several people, including Zach, no one was hurt. But the fire left 30 people displaced, including Gabby and her family.
But watching a fire destroy her home wasn’t necessarily the hardest thing to face. Losing even the most basic things – clothes, a toothbrush, family mementos – proved to be the toughest part. Especially because some of the things that were lost were irreplaceable.
“That was probably the hardest part, we had nothing,” she said. “We had our son’s first stuff coming home [from the hospital], it was really hard. You don’t think about that stuff, we took it for granted.”
Each year, many Lowe’s associates are faced with unexpected hardships. From medical events to natural disasters, these hardships can be devastating. For more than 20 years now, the Lowe’s Employee Relief Fund (LERF) has helped during those times of need. The fund has distributed more than $40 million in financial assistance to more than 34,000 Lowe’s associates and their families.
LERF is funded by associates and 100% of the contributions helps someone in need. In addition, for every dollar given by associates, the company matches that contribution.
The fund is there to support associates immediately after the disaster and, most times, before insurance and other help arrives. For Gabby, Zach and Levi, it was the first step to starting over.
“It meant a lot, it helped out getting my son’s stuff back together, getting our clothes back,” Gabby said.
And where it came from meant just as much.
“I’m just thankful. Life’s hard, but for people to be giving like that, it’s really nice.”