For Green Bay, Wis.-based event tent manufacturer American Tent, what began as a website chat ended as a disaster relief effort.
Representatives from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) reached out to American Tent through the company’s chat feature in February, needing tents that could serve as temporary school rooms to replace schools that were destroyed in a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in early January.
The company responded quickly with quotes and shipping estimates. But American Tent wasn’t satisfied with just selling tents to the organization. “We realized that this was a huge disaster for our fellow American citizens—but at least here in Wisconsin, we hadn’t heard much about the earthquakes and the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico,” says American Tent CEO Tony Ehrbar. “We figured since we didn’t know much about it, our social and business circles may not know much either. We started a GoFundMe to raise more money so that we could send team members there to help with set up and train volunteers. We also collected enough money to bring soccer balls, insect repellant, school supplies and other supplies the AFT identified as needed.”
As of mid-March, the company had manufactured 100 tents for the relief efforts, and Ehrbar, sales manager Jake Legois and COO Bill Story flew to Puerto Rico in early March to help with installation. Ehrbar says that it’s human instinct to help in a crisis, but people don’t always know how. The lesson here is simple: Just ask.
“Also, don’t be afraid to do something a little outside your comfort zone,” he says. “We flew down to Puerto Rico on three days’ notice to assist with the setup, and it was one of the most rewarding things any of us has ever done.”