The tower industry is no stranger to devastation. Players in the wireless infrastructure space have seen it all over time and have responded by providing and maintaining one of the most important services necessary: connectivity to the outside world. Beyond that, support comes in all shapes, sizes and groupings.
In early September, Hurricane Laura turned order into chaos across the parishes of Southern Louisiana. While the industry writ large responded, a few more tower execs took it a step further by bringing their own personal brand of assistance.
Kimberly Buggeln, Director of Sales at Connectivity Wireless, saw her hometown of Carlyss, LA, located only miles from the Gulf in the southwestern corner of the state, steamrolled by the Class Four 150-mph winds and “catastrophic” storm surges as defined by the National Hurricane Center (seven mph short of a Class Five). Although she and her husband Brett, the COO and a partner in Tarpon Towers II, LLC, were vacationing in Vermont, they immediately packed up and headed south, buying up needed supplies along the way that were suggested by friends and family on Facebook.
Unbeknownst to them, Tarpon CEO Ron Bizick had received a call from Tarpon President Bill Freeman and UCI2 Vice President Todd Schlemmer, who wanted to offer more than sympathy to the region when they heard the news. The group reached out to Michael Belski, EVP of Vertical Bridge and Jimmy Rocco of Vertical Bridge to expand the team and its resources and on their own initiative, they found a few 16-foot trailers, asked the Buggelns what supplies were needed, filled the wish list, and headed out from their Florida bases…an area that’s no stranger to lethal-force storms.
“They personally went shopping and loaded approximately $20,000 worth of supplies,” Kimberly said. “Everything from generators, chainsaws, batteries, tarps, flashlights to peanut butter, dog food and beef jerky. This effort, above and beyond, makes me proud of the wireless industry and its companies like Tarpon, Vertical Bridge, and UCI2 who react at a moment’s notice.”
The convoy, led by Bizick and associates, arrived in the Lake Charles area first, making two stops to offload supplies to folks with no homes left and other devastating property destruction. The final stop was at Kimberly’s father’s house in Carlyss where about 20 family members and friends helped them complete unloading the trailers in the midst of 100 plus degree heat with no electricity, no open stores, no running water and no serviceable electric grid remaining on the streets.
Besides the food and supplies there was over 500 gallons of fuel in portable gas cans delivered along with 100 gallons of diesel fuel to power generators. By Kimberly’s estimate, over a hundred people came and got supplies, food and fuel. “Many cried with joy and were so grateful,” she said, “they cry even now when I speak to them because complete strangers took the time to care enough to disrupt their own lives to help them,” she told Inside Towers.
“When the Weather Channel leaves, most unaffected people tend to forget about those who were affected,” Bizick said. “We saw firsthand the utter devastation of property that frankly is hard to imagine. And I don’t recall seeing a single FEMA trailer,” he told Inside Towers. “Sadly, lives were forever changed by this disaster.”
Bizick downplayed his role by saying he was glad that their three-day humanitarian trip was able to help some of those in need. “I wish we could have helped even more of the folks affected. I can tell you from what we saw that there is no shortage of people who could use the help.”
The Bugglens have asked that donations be directed to Lakewood Bible Fellowship in Lake Charles, LA which is providing supplies daily for anyone and everyone. They are accepting donations via PayPal to [email protected].
By Jim Fryer, Inside Towers Managing Editor