Claudine Zukowski, P&G’s Global Disaster Relief Leader, loves her job: offering some of her company’s best-loved brands like Tide, Crest, Pantene and Pampers when and where they are most needed, in the wake of great loss. “In just the past couple of years, we’ve just seen an unprecedented number of disasters. They tend to be increasing in intensity and severity and affecting more and more people,” she explains. “When people lose everything they had, there is something comforting about being able to put on deodorant, wash their hair and brush their teeth,” she explains. “It’s these small acts that help them feel normal again and that is where our products can provide a unique benefit. P&G has a history of giving back to our communities and in times of disaster, we’ve discovered the huge impact we can make by being there with our brands. When disasters happen, you see neighbors looking out for neighbors, people coming from far and wide to help. It’s great to see people taking care of each other and we’re touched to be a part of that.”
In this spirit of community, P&G helps victims of disaster on many levels, working with a number of leading non-profit disaster relief organizations to provide P&G Disaster Relief Kits, part of the P&G Mobile Relief Program created in partnership Matthew 25: Ministries. Through this effort, they are able to go directly to the areas where there’s been the most damage, to reach the people most in need with products that help bring back a sense of normalcy and dignity.
In 2005, in the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina, P&G created The Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program to offer much-needed free laundry services to families on the Gulf Coast. Recognizing that clean clothes can mean so much—particularly at a time when clothes are often all that people have left—the Tide team created a mobile laundromat where survivors, first responders, and volunteers could bring their clothes to be washed, dried, and returned to them free of charge. The resilience and spirit of the people of New Orleans inspired Tide to expand the Loads of Hope program to help more families across the U.S. Since then, the program has washed and dried more than 68,000 loads of laundry for nearly 50,000 families across the U.S. and Canada.
For Sundar Raman, Tide’s North America VP, whose division runs the program, making a difference is all about teamwork, timing, and a sensitive, personal touch. “When disaster strikes, our Corporate Disaster Relief team reaches out to the people on the forefront—like The Red Cross, Matthew 25 Ministries, and FEMA—and they determine when is the right time and what is the right location for a service like Loads of Hope,” he says. “We want to be able to deliver clean clothes to people at those specific moments when all they have are the clothes on their back. The simple act of wearing your own clean clothes means so much to people. It’s self-esteem, it’s a sense of confidence, it’s like ‘okay I can rebuild starting back up from this point’ and you see all of those emotions encapsulated in that moment when people pick up their clean clothes.”
Since Katrina, the increase in natural disasters has created a greater need for assistance. P&G has responded by increasing its investment in this program.
“We’ve expanded from the original truck to now having two mobile units for Tide Loads of Hope, so we’re able to respond more effectively and more places whenever needed,” Zukowski says.
“Depending on the scale of the disaster, we will deploy one or both trucks and possibly split the trucks to cover a wider area in a storm that’s caused widespread destruction. One truck is outfitted with 12 energy-efficient Whirlpool washers and dryers and can do 100 wash/dry cycles a day. The second is outfitted with 18 washers and dryers and can do 200 wash/dry cycles a day. We’ve been everywhere from New York to Florida to Texas to California to provide people recovering from disaster some of the basic essentials.”
The past few years have seen a huge increase in the number of deployments for the Loads of Hope team. To offer a sense of scale, Zukowski explains just how much laundry they did for how many people. “Over two deployments alone, the team washed more than 2,600 loads of laundry and helped approximately 1,400 families. Just this past year, in 2018, we had some of our longest deployments. Following Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, the mobile relief team was on the ground for three weeks, and then, when Hurricane Michael arrived, they were on the ground for several more weeks before moving on to California to help with the wildfires.”
Often, it’s more than just clean clothes that the Loads of Hope team can offer survivors of disaster; it’s a sense of normalcy and the hope that they can rebuild.