Diageo Spirit of America
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Holmes Report

Diageo Spirit of America

Established in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Spirit of America Fund provides immediate relief and disaster aid around the world.

Paul Holmes

Established in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Spirit of America Fund provides immediate relief and disaster aid around the world. Diageo not only funds these missions, but just as they have since 9/11, company executives and employees also accompany the relief supplies to the crisis zone and help distribute the aid. This it what makes Diageo’s humanitarian aid projects unique. Diageo does not just donate money – it makes sure the supplies are delivered directly to the people most in need by being hands-on in every step of the mission. Whether it is in Afghanistan, Iraq our Diageo’s home state of Connecticut, the Spirit of America is there.

For many, the 2004 storm season was something watched with horror on TV. But for others, the storms that ravaged the Americas forever changed the lives they once knew. In the blink of an eye hundreds of thousands of people were without clean water, shelter or food. When Diageo saw these storms coming, the Spirit of America fund prepared to go wherever it was needed most.

Diageo works with The Bridge Foundation, a non-governmental organization that facilitates the logistics of the Humanitarian Aid projects. The Bridge Foundation does not believe in a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to humanitarian aid. It tailors the aid being delivered to the needs of each community and each crisis situation by working with local officials and consignees. In each circumstance, Diageo and the Bridge Foundation work with experts and local officials to determine what supplies are needed most in the affected area.

In late May and early June, the island of Hispaniola was devastated by torrential rains and ensuing floods, mud and landslides. The people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic were in desperate need of help – and just when they thought the situation could not get any worse, more rain came. And then an earthquake. With the death toll rising from the hundreds into the thousands, Diageo knew it had to do something.

On June 7, the Diageo Spirit of the Americas Airlift descended on Haitian and Dominican victims, distributing emergency supplies. The Humanitarian Airlift delivered 56,000 pounds of food and emergency supplies to flood victims. The Airlift departed from Miami and divided its cargo between Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Port Au Prince, Haiti. The cargo included 28 tons of milk powder, beans, vegetable oil, rice, infant formula and protein supplement. This aid helped local community members, including the 40 Diageo Dominican employees and over 300 employees from a brewery that produces Guinness for Diageo.

Diageo worked with two different consignees to ensure that the supplies reached their intended destinations. In the Dominican Republic, Diageo worked with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, long established in the DR with a network of health clinics. In Haiti, the consignee was Catholic Relief Services, a group that also has a long history of on-the-ground experience and a solid track record.

This year’s hurricane season was fast and furious. In just over a month, Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne lashed the southeastern coast of the United States and the Caribbean and left hundreds of thousands of people in need. Help was needed not once or twice, but six times in fewer than four weeks.

On August 17, Diageo dispatched disaster aid in the form of four giant electricity generators to the victims of Hurricane Charley. By working with Governor Bush’s office, Diageo determined that its giant generators would be delivered to Hardee County, Florida, one of the state’s hardest hit areas. In response to this donation William S. Simon, Secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services said: “Many individuals and organizations have reached out to help [the victims of Hurricane Charley], but Diageo was on the scene first. Many companies called asking what they could do, others are generously contributing money, and Diageo was the very first to arrive with needed resources in some of the hardest hit inland counties.”

The generators operated Hardee County’s only Solid Waste Material Recovery Facility, allowing the county to dispose of debris left by the storm as well as prevent potentially dangerous and unsanitary conditions that could have occurred had the area’s trash piled up.

Just as Florida was recovering from Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Frances moved in off the coast over Labor Day Weekend. On September 3, Diageo positioned generators on the edge of the storm’s strike zone, prepared to rush to the neediest communities’ right after the storm hit. By September 6, Diageo’s generators were supplying water to the over 88,000 residents of Port St. Lucie and the surrounding area. A second generator was used to restart Palm Bay Utilities’ power substations, a critical step in the process or restoring full electrical power to Palm Bay’s 85,000 residents. The third generator powered a police substation in the Lincoln Park area of Fort Pierce. Lincoln Park, the most dangerous neighborhood in Fort Pierce, had been without law enforcement in the days immediately after the storm.

As if the residents of the eastern coast of Florida hadn’t already suffered enough, a mere 20 days later, the same area was hit by Hurricane Jeanne. One of the many impacted by Hurricane Jeanne was a Diageo employee. Two local area employees secured a generator, gasoline and roofing tarps in order to secure the employee’s home. These hand-delivered supplies provided much needed relief to the employee and to his family.

Diageo also extended support to our Caribbean neighbors. Just four days after Hurricane Frances, Diageo again answered the call for help, embarking on a humanitarian relief airlift to aid victims of Hurricane Ivan in Grenada. The airplane Diageo chartered was the second relief plane to enter Grenada; the first was the US Air Force.

Diageo delivered 52,000 pounds of food and emergency supplies in partnership with Diageo Latin America and Caribbean. But Grenada was not the only Caribbean country hit hard by the storm. Jamaica was also affected, this time by Hurricane Ivan. In response to the needs presented by Diageo’s Red Stripe employees and their fellow Jamaicans, Diageo airlifted almost 50,000 pounds of disaster relief to Kingston. Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management met the airlift and made sure the supplies were properly distributed to those most in need.

Hurricane Ivan did not spare the US, either. As Alabama braced itself for the coming storm, Diageo again mobilized generators in anticipation of the disaster that was all but guaranteed to follow. On September 17, one of Diageo’s generators was powering the water treatment facility in Bayou La Batre, Alabama and provided clean, potable water to approximately 10,000 residents. The other generator provided electricity to the Mobile, Alabama Police Department Headquarters hours after the storm departed.

Diageo measures the Spirit of America humanitarian aid missions’ success with one simple question: how many lives did we touch? Since 2001, Diageo has coordinated humanitarian missions to seven countries. Diageo has hand-delivered more than 338,000 lbs of aid and has fed nearly a million people.

Since June 2004, Diageo undertook six relief missions, offering much needed supplies and aid to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Alabama, Grenada and Jamaica. The relief restored power and water to more than 300,000 people in Florida and Alabama, and airlifted more than 158,000 lbs of aid to four different countries in the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes.

One of Diageo’s values is, “Celebrating life everyday, everywhere, responsibly.” The Spirit of America humanitarian aid missions simply add another dimension to this phrase.

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