When natural disasters strike, one of the most immediate needs is providing emergency shelter to affected communities. For more than 20 years, Seaman Corp. has partnered with disaster relief organizations to shelter families in need around the world.
Seaman is currently evaluating the best ways to respond to recent hurricanes in Florida and Texas. However, over the past two years, Seaman has donated more than 45,000 yards of tarp and coated fabric to World Vision, a nonprofit humanitarian organization working to help communities suffering from poverty in countries around the world. Most of the donated fabrics are used for mattress covers in hospitals and to build shelter for those who have been displaced from their homes as a result of the ongoing drought in Somalia. The material is also used to line ditches and capture any rain that falls during the drought.
With plants in Wooster, Ohio, and Bristol, Tenn., Seaman manufactures high-performance fabric used for roofing, hazardous waste containment, truck tarps, potable water containment, recreational products and architectural applications, among others. Seaman was founded in 1949 by Norm and Irene Seaman in Canal Fulton, Ohio, initially as a cut-and-sew fabricator of rubber and vinyl products.
“We have donated almost every type of fabric that we manufacture—roofing material, geomembrane, windscreens and tarp,” says Kim Seaman, granddaughter of the founders, who works for the company and also serves on the company’s board of directors. “Tarp fabric is the easiest to work with for most applications.”
The family-owned-and-operated company first began donating its fabrics in 1996 when it partnered with Port Mercy, La.-based disaster relief organization, Friend Ships Unlimited. Friend Ships is a global disaster relief organization that deploys large-scale humanitarian aid throughout the world from its Lake Charles, La., home base (an area also hard hit by recent hurricanes). In 1998, Seaman began increasing its shipments of fabric and tarp for temporary shelters after Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras.
Since then, regular donations of fabric to Friend Ships have been used to provide temporary shelters, protect damaged buildings from weather, fabricate clothing and medical kits and protect containers of other emergency supplies during shipment. In 2005, Seaman donated 13 truckloads of fabric worth more than $250,000 to Friend Ships’ disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Coast area. Additional donated fabrics went toward the building of aid centers in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and an aid distribution center in Galveston, Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Ike in 2008. Seaman’s fabric is currently being utilized to make a repair tent, cover palettes, make floors and create signage for an ongoing field clinic in war-torn Syria.
In the past three years alone, Seaman has donated $970,000 worth of fabric to its partner organizations.
“We’ve sought out these organizations,” explains Kim Seaman. “Of course we want to sell the fabric we make. But when fabrics don’t move quickly for us, partnering with these organizations gives us an opportunity to still be sure they are put to good use. It’s gratifying to know we can help people around the world, especially when they need it most.”
Jahna Peloquin is a writer and editor based in Minneapolis, Minn.