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"I am very pleased to say that, less than a week after Hurricane Ike struck, we have 56 of our 67 Houston area stores open today," Cyndy Garza-Robert, HEB's Houston director of public affairs told Progressive Grocer Wednesday. "It is phenomenal, what our employee-partners have done."
HEB employees from throughout Texas came to the Houston area to help restock shelves, clean and reopen stores. The grocer chartered a plane to fly in truck drivers from throughout the state to get needed products into stores. Out of 67 area stores, HEB has also reopened 31 gas stations.
"We are making every effort to keep prices at the lowest possible rate in spite of current conditions," Garza-Robert said. "The most-needed commodity is ice. We are working with vendors on this. Even our stores in Mexico are sending ice."
Garza-Robert added that HEB's own associates are showing true commitment. "I am overwhelmed by how much people care about what is taking place in Houston and offering to help here and in Galveston," she said. "Even though our own people have damaged homes and no power, they are coming to work to take care of customers."
HEB's mobile kitchen has prepared 2,500 meals an hour for evacuees in Houston since the hurricane hit. The kitchen will be moving to Galveston on Thursday. "We received a call from Galveston asking us to help feed those who stayed on the island, the first responders, FEMA and other workers," Garza-Robert said. "Tomorrow morning they will have their first hot breakfast since the storm."
The grocer has also sent an 18-wheeler converted into a pharmacy to the Port Arthur area to dispense emergency medical supplies and prescriptions. A second semi, outfitted as a business center so residents can cash checks, use credit cards, access an ATM or use Western Union, is in Port Arthur. Garza-Robert said she received a desperate call from the Humane Society in Houston on Wednesday asking for pet food. HEB is donating 24 pallets of pet food for the rescued animals.
HEB launched a statewide tear pad campaign on Tuesday to help support Hurricane Ike victims. HEB customers can add a donation of $1, $3 or $5 to their total grocery bill. Donations will be routed directly to disaster relief agencies to be distributed to areas where the need is greatest.