May 2, 2023

When Tornado Strikes, EquipmentShare Employees Answer the Call to Serve

EquipmentShare employee helps with tornado relief

"We knew we had to step up, because these people needed help and there was no help coming." — Jordan Carver

On March 2, 2023, EquipmentShare held a grand opening for its new branch in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. EquipmentShare representatives on hand that day described the new construction equipment rental store in town as part of a People First company with employees dedicated to building up the communities they serve. 

These were the sort of nice words often said by someone holding an oversized pair of scissors at a ribbon-cutting, but did they really mean anything?

A month later, the people of Southeast Missouri found out.

In the predawn darkness of April 5, a deadly tornado tore through Bollinger County and devastated several small towns, including Glen Allen – a town of fewer than 100 people about 28 miles west of Cape Girardeau. Alan Terbrak, the service manager of the Cape Girardeau branch, lives near Glen Allen and knows many of its residents. By 5 that morning, Terbrak was on the phone with Jordan Carver, the branch general manager, discussing how they could help.

“We knew we wanted to do everything we could,” Terbrak said. “Not just because it was my community — we would help any way we can anywhere. That’s just what you’re supposed to do.”

With assistance from Casey O’Nan, an EquipmentShare district sales manager who had helped coordinate the company’s disaster relief efforts after a December 2021 tornado in Kentucky, they started to put together a plan. Carver arranged for his EquipmentShare branch to provide the heavy machinery — excavators, skid steers and a telehandler — needed to remove trees, demolish buildings and pile up debris. Because power in the town was out, he also sent light towers that could double as generators.

The next morning, Carver, Terbrak and O’Nan met at Woodland Elementary School for a briefing between local officials and people interested in helping with the recovery. The officials quickly explained the assessed value of the damaged property didn’t meet the minimum threshold for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

In other words, all they had was each other, neighbor helping neighbor.

“They said, ‘If you’re a contractor here to make money, there’s no government money here for you to make,’” Carver said. “With that, I would say about 50 to 75% of the trucks with equipment that were on the lot left. That’s when we knew we had to step up, because these people needed help and there was no help coming.”

Right after the briefing, the EquipmentShare team — which included several employees of the Cape Girardeau branch — got to work helping the people of Glen Allen. 

“We had guys going house to house, seeing what people needed,” Terbrak said. “I dispatched the equipment, got operators in the equipment and went to work. We got ahold of the county highway department, and they provided dump trucks to haul away the debris. A lot of people were surprised and very grateful that we were doing this for free. We didn’t go out there to make a name for ourselves or to try to compete with any other companies. We just went to help people.”

More EquipmentShare reinforcements joined the cause after the tornado. A disaster relief team led by Craig Hindelang arrived with food and water and spent the next three days cooking nearly 1,300 meals for the town’s people — plus a few hungry dogs that followed their noses to the grills. The EquipmentShare Foundation bought 200 stuffed animals for Woodland School District students who were traumatized by the storm, which claimed the lives of five people, including two teens. The Foundation also provided almost $1,000 worth of portable phone chargers and $3,000 in gift cards to people in need.

All of these actions backed up the words spoken at the grand opening about EquipmentShare employees building up the communities they serve.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people, ‘I love my job.’ I said it before the tornado and even more now,” Carver said. “Seeing the level to which I was allowed to step up as a store, seeing Craig and his guys coming down, Casey, the Foundation, all of the support we got — it reinforced what I thought about EquipmentShare. I can’t see myself working anywhere else.”

Learn more about EquipmentShare’s disaster response division here.

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