Toyota of Slidell
The hurricane – and its aftermath – remains a vivid memory for Rusty Munster, general manager of Toyota of Slidell. Eleven feet of water inundated the dealership, located about 30 miles northeast of New Orleans. All 400 vehicles on the lot were destroyed. The dealership was displaced for 16 months, first operating from circus tents. Later, they upgraded to trailers.
Last August, when Munster heard about Hurricane Harvey and the dire predictions about its likely impact, he knew he had to act.
“We had so many people reach out to help us after Katrina that we just wanted to do something,” Munster says.
Sales Manager Ryan Denmark had the idea of making the dealership a drop-off point for supplies to donate to Harvey victims after the storm, and the wheels were set in motion. The dealership ran a Facebook ad reaching out to its customers, friends and the Slidell market. They asked for a wide range of donations: Cleaning supplies, clothes, diapers, toiletries, and water among them.
A view of the trailer, jam-packed with supplies to help Hurricane Harvey victims.
Besides the Facebook ad, a local television crew reported on the effort. The response was overwhelming. “In less than a week, we literally filled our showroom,” Munster says.
The dealership hadn’t really thought through how it would get the supplies to those who needed them. Then memories of Katrina flooded back in, and Munster knew whom to call.
He picked up the phone and reached out Gulf States Toyota. “GST and a team of others worked nonstop to help us after Katrina,” Munster says. “Brad worked with me shoveling mud and delivering supplies daily for at least three weeks straight,” he says.
GST connected Munster to Jay Richards III, general manager of Kinsel Toyota in Beaumont, Texas.
Kinsel Toyota sent a large trailer to collect the goods and used its Facebook page to keep its followers updated on the relief effort. It spearheaded the distribution of the goods to first-responders in Beaumont whose homes were hit by the storm.
While this was the first time Toyota of Slidell helped in a hurricane recovery effort, Munster says they “absolutely” will do it again if the need arises.
“Our customers who had experienced Katrina really understood what we were doing and responded,” he says of the relief effort, “and we got a big thank you from all the folks in Beaumont.”