Keller Williams this week is in the midst of distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars in supplies and grants to agents suffering the impacts of Hurricane Ida.
The effort is part of KW Cares, a program funded through donations from Keller Williams agents and which is designed to help members of the company who have been impacted by natural disasters. Alexia Rodriguez, CEO of KW Cares, told Inman Wednesday that her team — which currently includes about 50 Keller Williams volunteers — first began mobilizing last week when it became clear Hurricane Ida was going to cause significant disruption in the South. Since then, the program has processed about 82 grants totaling more than $300,000.
The grants include up to $5,000 and are meant to help Keller Williams team members and their families cover things like lodging, transportation and other costs associated with evacuating and surviving a disaster.
In addition to financial assistance, KW Cares also loaded a semi-truck with supplies from a company warehouse in Austin, Texas, earlier this week. The truck arrived in Louisiana — which has so far suffered the brunt of the hurricane’s force — on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, Keller Williams volunteers were distributing the supplies to agents and their families who were in need.
“Those supplies go really quickly during an event like this,” Rodriguez noted. “In terms of supplies, everything that we have delivered as of yesterday has been distributed.”
Rodriguez said the supplies included generators, tarps and other weather-related gear. The company was in the process of loading a second semi-truck Wednesday while Rodriguez was speaking with Inman, and planned to drive it to Louisiana later in the day.
Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on Sunday. At the time, it was the second most powerful hurricane to hit the state, after the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm ultimately caused significant damage throughout the region, including flooding urban areas and toppling buildings.
The storm also knocked out power for more than 1 million people in Louisiana and Mississippi, while also leaving hundreds trapped in and around flooded homes.
Meteorologists downgraded Ida to a tropical storm on Monday. However, officials in the region said that even after the worst of the storm passed it could be weeks or more until the electrical grid and other utilities were restored.
Rodriguez said the aid from KW Cares is designed to help Keller Williams personnel — many of whom work on commission and thus may not have income during the disaster — make it through that period.
KW Cares was founded 18 years ago. In the time since, Keller Williams has deployed the program to help in a variety of circumstances including prior hurricanes, wildfires and other incidents. In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, the program mobilized more than 3,000 volunteers to help remediate more than 200 homes.
In total since its founding, KW Cares has distributed $49 million in grants.
In the case of Ida, Rodriguez said that as of Wednesday the KW Cares call center in Austin was getting 25 to 30 calls an hour about accessing aid. In Louisiana, KW Cares currently has three command centers from which it is distributing supplies and providing assistance.
In addition to smaller grants and supplies, KW Cares also has the ability to distribute grants to cover larger expenses, such as when a home is destroyed but the insurance has a high deductible. Rodriguez said those grants will become available after the initial rush of the disaster has subsided.
In total, Rodriguez estimated KW Cares will probably end up helping around 2,000 people who have been impacted by Ida.
“We’ll stay involved as long as people need us,” Rodriguez added. “We’re preparing to be there for at least a month.”