The calm before—and during—the storm. How Truist was quick to help during Hurricane Ian.
After the winds died down, Kimberly Scherman walked through the muck back to her house, losing a shoe along the way. Her Fort Myers Beach, Florida, home didn’t look so bad, despite the upended vending machine that had somehow made its way to her backyard.
But when she tried to open the front door, it was swollen shut. Hurricane Ian had been strong enough to fill her house with water. It might have looked OK on the outside, but it wasn’t habitable.
“I realized my life wasn’t going to be normal for quite some time,” says Scherman, a Truist teammate.
She was one of thousands affected by Hurricane Ian in September 2022. Its swath of destruction caused damages estimated between $41 billion and $70 billion.1
But help was on the way.
Truist: The calm in the storm
Truist branches across Florida closed early the day the hurricane hit. Truist teammate Allison Robinson says it’s a balancing act, knowing when to close during emergencies. “We want to make sure we help as many clients as we can with things like cash needs,” she says, “and then match that with balancing the safety of our teammates. If you’re actively engaged, caring leaders, you can do both.”
Even as teammates headed home to safety, Truist was still hard at work behind the scenes. “The minute we saw this was going to impact our community, we started pulling together,” says Robinson.
“As the storm was hitting, there were so many preparations for the post-storm recovery,” says Kimberly Dorsett, Truist teammate. “We immediately organized a large humanitarian effort for the affected areas in southwest Florida to ensure basic needs were provided for our teammates and the community.” They also tracked teammates very closely. “Who’s staying, who’s leaving. We wanted a clear view of their journey to safety.”
Going above and beyond
Scherman was one of those teammates. When she and her husband, Jason, learned the storm surge was going to be as high as 15 feet, they headed to higher ground. With Jason’s son and their macaw, Peaches, they took only a few meaningful possessions and walked to a nearby resort managed by their friend. He was still there, working in an otherwise-evacuated building.
There, they waited out the storm on the second story. The water reached up to their balcony, and they could hear the first floor crumble and break. It was a trying time, but Scherman stayed positive. “We had no water or anything,” she says, “but we had each other, and we had my bird.” Peaches offered comic relief, giving voice to everyone’s emotion as she yelled “Argh!” from time to time.
At dawn, after the storm passed, they walked to their house to see the damage. On the way, Scherman saw two of her Truist clients, who approached her with banking needs. She directed them to the phone number to call. And as she cared for her community, Truist cared for her.
Teammates, including leaders she’d never met, texted and called, asking how she was, some offering to come to Fort Myers Beach to help. “I don’t think you’re allowed on the island, but thank you,” she texted, astonished by the sheer number of people who’d reached out.
The couple’s car was destroyed in the storm, so they had to walk off the island to safety. But once they did, Truist had arranged for a shuttle to take Scherman and other teammates to get rental cars.
Truist also put several teammates and their families, including Scherman’s, in hotels. And Kevin Hart, retail region leader, took her shopping for clothes and got her a suitcase to hold everything. He followed up by heading to a pet shop to get Peaches a cage. “They went above and beyond to get us started,” she says. Other teammates had similar experiences.
“We had leaders calling people, saying, ‘Hey, do you want to meet me? I’m going to let you walk through the store and just pick out some items,’” says Robinson. “They did it one by one to give them care and respect in the situation.”
Many teammates lost their cars to the flooding. So, Dorsett and Truist's dealer finance and risk team streamlined a process for teammates to get low-interest car loans. With that loan, Scherman bought a Ford Bronco when she learned it could drive through tire-high water.
Aid for the community, too
Truist’s careful preparation ahead of the storm led to immediate assistance not just for teammates, but for the entire community. “We’re proud to be one of the very first groups able to get aid in and start to distribute supplies to people,” Robinson says.
Relief efforts were challenging. Roads were blocked. Conditions were dangerous. Robinson had to turn away teammates who were offering to drive in before it was safe. Once roads were passable, she estimates at least 175 teammates came to help distribute supplies in Estero, Fort Myers, and Port Charlotte, Florida. That included Truist Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers and Chief Retail and Small Business Banking Officer Dontá Wilson
Stations were set up with food, towels, cleaning supplies, water, and more. “Bill Rogers flew in with tarps because he heard we needed them,” says Robinson.
“It’s care in action that makes a difference,” she adds.
When your whole company is behind you
Scherman was incredibly grateful to teammates for all they did after the storm, yet she also resisted the assistance. “I’ve worked hard for everything I have,” she says, her voice breaking. “And when you’re put in a position of having nothing, it’s hard to accept help.”
Dorsett says giving that help is just part of Truist’s DNA. Since Truist is guided by purpose—to inspire and build better lives and communities—it was easy to take the next right step to help the community and teammates, without a lot of red tape. “Having our executive leadership pivot so fast, be with us every step of the way, and do whatever it took to support us exemplified purpose to all of us,” says Dorsett. Most recently, Dorsett helped create a Thanksgiving event to provide meals for affected teammates.
Scherman hopes to be back home soon, even if the entire house isn’t livable yet. Supply drives for the community are ongoing at Truist branches. Scherman met Rogers at one of them. “He gave me a very strong handshake and a coin with Truist’s purpose written on it. He said if I’m ever worried or scared just to hold this, to know that the whole of Truist is behind me for anything we may need. I’ve never been so proud to work for a company than I am to work for Truist.”