On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley barreled into Florida’s western coast as a Category 4 storm. Convoy of Hope was ahead of the storm, sending its one and only Disaster Services team. They were on the ground the same day the storm made landfall — setting up a point of distribution (POD) and assisting those affected by the storm.
Eleven days later, another storm started brewing in the Atlantic Ocean — one that would become Hurricane Frances. It struck the eastern side of Florida as a Category 2 storm on September 5. Convoy called for reinforcements and began sending supplies to assist survivors on the other side of the state.
A couple weeks later, on September 16, Hurricane Ivan struck the Pensacola area of northwestern Florida.
And ten days after that, Hurricane Jeanne made landfall on Florida’s east coast where Hurricane Frances had struck less than two months before.
Four hurricanes in six weeks.
Randy Rich is a 25-year Convoy veteran and currently serves as our Vice President of Administration. He was sent with the reinforcement teams who responded to both Hurricanes Charley and Jeanne. “It was like Groundhog Day,” he says. “During our response to Hurricane Jeanne, we set up a POD in the exact same parking lot as we did during Frances.”
At the time, Convoy would arrive as quickly as possible after the disaster, set up a POD, and serve for about a week. The 2004 hurricane season demanded that the team be in full-on disaster relief mode for nearly two months straight. To provide some context, in 2003, Convoy distributed approximately 300 tractor-trailer loads altogether. In that period of 53 days in 2004, the response teams distributed 169 loads. The response even warranted a site visit from President George W. Bush.
To say the team was stretched thin would be an understatement. But Convoy has never been afraid to lean into the difficulties surrounding a disaster response. Everyone on staff stepped up and did what they could, regardless of whether or not it was part of their job description. Supply Chain workers traveled to Florida to assist in relief work, Community Events personnel helped with distribution, and they depended on the incredible generosity and kindness of local volunteers in Florida to make our PODs flow smoothly.
“That hurricane season really helped us develop the POD concept,” says Randy. “Working through the concept of setting up a distribution hub that could service other neighborhoods and communities … all of that was developed further during those four hurricanes.”
Randy also remembers the human toll such an intense hurricane season had on the residents of Florida. He recalls seeing an elderly couple pulled up to the POD he was working at. With tears in his eyes, he recounts how desperate they looked: “They were probably going to sleep in their car that night.”
Convoy of Hope understands that hurricanes, like all natural disasters, affect everyone in their paths. It doesn’t matter who someone is, what job they have, or where they live — everyone needs to be told there’s hope and that they’re loved during those dark moments.
That’s what Convoy has been doing for 25 years, and with the help of friends like you, that’s what we’ll continue to do for decades to come.