VMware volunteers help families in Houston Texas whose homes had been flooded by Hurricane Harvey

Posted by Paul Braren on Oct 4 2017 in
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  • VMware EPIC2


    What's the 2nd C in the VMware acronym EPIC2 stand for?

    Give More.
    We are all connected. We approach each other with open minds and humble hearts. We serve by dedicating our time, talent, and energy, creating a thriving community together.


    I was at an internal meeting in New Jersey a couple of months back, with about 50 other IT professionals. I thought it was pretty darn good idea that the meeting leader offered us a chance to help out at the local food bank at the end of our day of stuffy indoor business meetings. Sign me up! What a great way to help those in far greater need than us, even if just for a couple of hours.

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I had seen many pictures of the flooding on the news, but it all seemed rather distant. By chance, I was headed to Texas for some meetings at VMware's lovely Austin location. I recall thinking that's not that far from all the flooding. Sure enough, an email arrived, a plea for help, asking if I wanted to arrive a day earlier. Just one day, to help out in a meaningful way. Admittedly, I had some trepidation as I signed up, intentionally not giving it too much thought. I hoped there would be masks and gloves and equipment of course, and blocked Sep 26th off as out-of-office.

    Rows of shuttle vans lined up at 6am


    This was an opportunity for some team bonding time along the way, as we made the 3.5 hour journey from Austin to Houston, where we received our assignments. Our vans then dispersed, headed off into various hard-hit neighborhoods and food shelters.

    Any concerns over safety were largely unfounded, as it turns out plenty of gloves and masks were ready for everybody. I wasn't prepared for was the somber feeling as we drove into miles of devastation, with people's entire lives worth of possessions left in giant heap on their front lawns, waiting weeks or months for backhoes to take it all away.

    If there is any bright side to this, it's that such deep, multi-day flooding pretty much cleans out all vermin and bugs. That's right, all I saw were a few flies buzzing around the piles of discarded carpets. Turns out there wasn't much smell beside mold. Police were patrolling this residential neighborhood, and the volunteers were a well organized and stuck together in obvious shirts and color-coded-wrist-bands. We were clearly exactly where we belonged.


    So once we got over the shock of what we saw, we got right to work. What was left to do was to rip out all wall board indoors and pile it up outside, in a giant soggy heap. Oh, and remove a few hundred nails. Not that difficult or physically demanding really. It was hot, but 87 degrees isn't that bad, and we were only on site for about 3 hours total. I've gone through worse heat fixing stuff in my attic.

    VMware not only actively encourages volunteer-ism, it delivers through paid time off. I'd say it was a pretty great way to spend the day, bonding with new colleagues working side-by-side as we mucked a home out, together.

    Oh yeah, Houston native John Nicholson @Lost_Signal was there with us too! I'll think of that day spent with John and so many other colleagues every time I hear his voice on his amazing podcast.

    Closing thoughts

    What a memorable, sad, and inspiring day September 26, 2017 was for me, and for over a hundred other VMware folks. I'm so glad I took this opportunity to help. My hope is that this article can inspire somebody else to pitch in and help out when there's a need in their neighborhood. There always is. Particularly effective if your employer actively encourages volunteer-ism too, such as the VMware Foundation:


    The mission of the VMware Foundation is to provide a platform to amplify the contributions of VMware people to their causes of choice and inspire the Citizen Philanthropist in all of us. Together, we are a force for good that propels our collective impact in the global community.


    "VMware volunteers help family in Houston Texas whose home had been flooded by Hurricane Harvey" Recorded in 4K on Sep. 26, 2017 by Paul Braren.

    VMware's Jordan Walburger @JWalburger appearing live on local TV.

    "Volunteers head to Houston to help with Harvey relief." Recorded and published at 6am on Sep 26 2017 by kxan Austin.
    "VMware Volunteers Helping Victims of Hurricane Harvey" by Dusty Monroe at VMware.


    NY Times - Maps: Tracking Harvey’s Destructive Path Through Texas and Louisiana
    On Oct. 2, 2017, Google Maps Mobile shows the area when it was flooded by Hurricane Harvey a month earlier.
    Local Austin news crew sets up for live shot, as we gather at VMware to grab our shirts and prepare for the 6am departure.

    See also

    John Nicholson and Paul Braren.