The Road to Recovery: How the Houston Marathon Committee is Leading Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Scott Bush, Running USA
Running USA
September 19, 2017

Using internal expertise and external relationships, the organization is a pillar of support in their community in challenging times

 

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston late last month, devastating floods isolated the city, keeping people trapped in their homes and neighborhoods, as residents could only wait for the flood waters to dissipate enough to a point where actions could be put in place to start the recovery process.

 

As roads started to open up, the City of Houston put their recovery plans into motion, part of which was reaching out to local organizations that had the know-how and resources to manage specific segments of the overall efforts.

 

As donations started to roll into staged city locations, the Houston Marathon Committee (HMC), which hosts the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon annually in January, was asked by city officials to help support logistics in the city’s effort to establish a centralized donation supply center.

 

Wade Morehead - Houston Marathon CommitteeBefore the group stepped into action, Wade Morehead (pictured right), Executive Director of the HMC, made it clear that his number one priority was that the HMC staff, the board of directors and more than 150 committee members were safe and had the support they needed. Then began the communication to the civic, charitable, community and corporate partners to offer the support and resources of the HMC.

 

As conditions throughout the city worsened because of Harvey, the George R. Brown Convention Center, home to the race’s finish line and at that time a donation drop-off location, was transformed into a temporary housing shelter for thousands of displaced residents. This caused a need to adjust intake of the citywide donation efforts from the convention center to BBVA Compass Stadium, home to Houston’s local MLS team.

 

But, housing the donation drop-off at the soccer stadium was only temporary as there was an urgency for both venues to resume normal operations. The lack of a facility developed a need to transfer the donation intake and the warehouse to yet another location. The Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security enlisted the expertise of the HMC for strategic and operational support and the HMC team was more than willing to respond to the call.

 

Heading the Houston Marathon Committee efforts, Carly Caulfield, Senior Director of Operations, rallied the team together, contacted specific vendors who had the capabilities to help, recruited volunteers and put a logistics plan in place and got to work.

 

Over the course of the next week, Caulfield and team set up the warehouse, moved the incredible amount of donated goods from the soccer stadium to the warehouse and readied the facility to be able to distribute the donations, all the while harnessing the relationships the event has with their vendors, to continually benefit recovery efforts.

 

Houston Marathon Committee

“It was amazing to see Carly lead this team and develop a plan of action,” said Morehead. “So many citizens selflessly gave of their time and resources to help our neighbors who were impacted by the storm. We know our event exists because of the support of our city partners and the community, so it was a privilege to be able to use our unique skill set to give back as well.”

 

The leadership of the Houston Marathon highlights a few things those in the running industry need recognize. For starters, the relationship a race organizer has with a city is key. To be called upon by officials in time of need means a level of trust has been established, key to short-term and long-term success of an event as cities across the country are staring to limit or even reduce the number of road races run on their streets.

 

Second, the HMC’s action shows the level of understanding and knowhow an experienced race organization can support their community with in a time of need.

 

“The experience and skillset this group of people have from putting on our events, some of them for decades, Carly’s knowledge of the city, the relationships we have with our vendors, the knowledge of event management and race management, it’s all very applicable to dealing with a city emergency,” said Morehead. “Communicating with numerous stakeholders, identifying action items and problem solving on the spot are unique abilities that our operations team and course committee are great at.

 

Houston Marathon CommitteeIn addition to the logistical and operations leadership, the organization used their volunteer database and social media platforms to recruit hundreds of volunteers, while tapping trucking and expo supporters, who ultimately donated items like pallets, trucks, forklifts and personnel, while race sponsors like H-E-B mobilized their Mobile Kitchen Disaster Relief Units – vehicles used to feed runners post-race, Skechers Performance donated shoes, Verizon donated mobile office space, and Chevron, in addition to others, made substantial monetary donations.

 

While the national media shifted its collective focus to Hurricane Irma, and now Hurricane Maria, the need and support of Houston and the surrounding communities continues on. It will take years and countless resources for Houston to fully recover from the destruction of Hurricane Harvey.

 

The HMC is committed to helping with the long road ahead and without fail January’s Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon will be an event to rally around, not only for runners, but for the region as a whole.

 

For those looking to support the Houston recovery efforts, donating to one of the 58 charity partners of the Chevron Houston Marathon Run for a Reason Program will allow for your donation to be shared directly to ongoing city needs. To learn more, visit: http://www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com/run-for-a-reason/charity-program-info/

 

Taking it one step further, Muffy King, Manager of Communications and Press Operations, suggests if runners are thinking of running a race in the coming months, Houston will offer something special not only this year, but in future years.

 

“I think this motivation and spirit that is engulfing our city right now is going to continue for weeks, months and years to come,” says King. “I would encourage people if they are looking for a marathon or something to participate in to consider coming to the race, as this overwhelming feeling of comradery is going to continue into the race and you’ll want to be here to experience it for yourself.”

 

To register to run or stay up-to-date on the Houston Marathon and Half Marathon, visit: http://www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com

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