Valor in the Face of Disaster

Oil companies recognize retailers who made a difference after Gulf Coast hurricanes

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Wednesday, November 30, signaled the end of hurricane season on the Gulf and East coasts. And more than two months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left their indelible marks on the Gulf Coast, major oil companies are recognizing individuals on their retail teams who went above and beyond the call of duty for their respective companies even as they battled personal losses.

In the face of their own personal tragedies, keeping their stores open and operating for the community was their No. 1 priority, Stan Hackenberg, director of operations [image-nocss] for the eastern region at Valero Energy Corp., San Antonio, told CSP Daily News. They don't do it necessarily for the company they work for; this is the fabric these people are made of. They want to get back in and make an impact on making things right again.

Hackenberg said Valero management is proud of all their employees who made a difference and noted the impact they had on their communities. The community, from my own observation, was extremely appreciative, he said. It's not the normal interaction. The community comes in and says, Oh my God, we're so thankful you're open.'

Hackenberg also listed three Valero store managers and an area manager who really showed their stripes following Hurricane Rita:

John CornwellHe's an area manager, and he'd be expected to chip in in this sort of situation, but he went above and beyond the call of duty because he's handling stuff that we wouldn't normally handle, Hackenberg said. Teresa BridgesShe's the store manager that stepped up and helped [Cornwell] quarterback the effort to get through the chaos and the short staffing and the lack of supplies and goods and services and running stores on generators and all that other stuff, Hackenberg said, adding that Bridges had no power at her house and she and was basically running her Beaumont, Texas, store by herself. These people had to go get food for the crews. They went into the refineries to get food. They were instrumental in keeping us posted on what kind of support they needed. Cherina DewsShe lives in Beaumont and basically relocated to Houston, which is a two-hour commute after Hurricane Katrina hit, said Hackenberg. She lived in a hotel, and she just got back in her house [on Wednesday]. Valero paid for her hotel and her mileage, but being displaced like that is difficult. Her home was destroyed, and she just got back in her house. Stephanie AuthementShe's from Lake Charles, La., which took the brunt of Hurricane Rita, and she's still living in a motel, Hackenberg said. She got in there, opened her store up within a couple of days, with help from us with the generators, and not once batted an eye about it while her house was just destroyed.

Similarly, officials at Houston-based Shell Oil are sharing tales of their most heroic employees:

Alma and Ramon CruzThey are the owners of the first gasoline station to open in the greater New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina struck. They single-handedly ran the Shell gasoline station every day for a month, typically logging 14 to 16 hours a day, so that police, ambulances, rescue workers and disaster personnel, as well as otherwise stranded motorists from their Kenner neighborhood and around New Orleans, could have a steady supply of fuel and supplies. Al DuvernayAfter Hurricane Katrina hit, this Shell paleontologist used his 16-foot aluminum motor boat to rescue many survivors from his own Lakeview neighborhood. Duvernay transported nearly 160 survivors and their pets to safety in the boat. During his mission, Duvernay also assisted a team of federal emergency workers in rescuing about 40 elderly and infirmed people holed up in a bank and too scared to leave.