SERVPRO Serving an Important Role in Southwest Florida's Rebuild
By Jeff Babineau
NAPLES, Fla. – A year ago, employees of SERVPRO, a presenting sponsor of the Chubb Classic, gathered in Naples to entertain clients, meet with colleagues, play a little golf, and soak up some Florida sunshine. It was February, the snowbirds had arrived, spring training was weeks away, and the area was booming.
At this week’s PGA TOUR Champions tournament, the company finds itself filling a different role after Hurricane Ian’s devastation of Southwest Florida in September. SERVPRO, a franchisor of fire and water cleanup and restoration franchises headquartered in Gallatin, Tenn., has been an integral contributor in helping to restore and rebuild the hard-hit communities that were turned upside down by the deadliest hurricane to hit Florida since 1935.
“For us to be able to come down here, support the community, both by restoring people's ... whether it be businesses and/or homes, it was really important,” said SERVPRO COO/Senior VP John Sooker, who was on the ground near Fort Myers touring battered areas within a week of Ian’s destruction. “We were able to bring a thousand extra crew into this area from all over the country to support Naples, Fort Myers, all this area, and trying to just build back their lives. It's a lot of impact.”
While many residents were displaced from their homes and sought to travel elsewhere to find housing, SERVPRO was sending people into the impacted areas to start to organize and help. Some workers might not find accommodations closer than two or three hours away, or sleep in their vehicles. Sooker said SERVPRO sent 1,000 extra crew workers to the area.
Some sections of Ian’s destructive path, such as Fort Myers Beach, which was leveled, might never get rebuilt, and in other areas that will be rebuilt, the rebuild will take years.
“We work at a local level with the contractors to be able to do the rebuild side, and that's probably the slower part of all this,” Sooker said. “You think of all the trades that are associated with that, you've got your sheetrock, drywall people, painters, you’ve got roofers, flooring people. All this needs to come into this community, these communities here, and coordinate all that.
“It's a little bit slower just because of the size of it, and the true – again, devastating effect of the hurricane itself. We'll be in a rebuild environment in these communities for at least another two years.”
Chubb, this event's title sponsor for 25 years, and SERVPRO, the tourney's presenting sponsor, announced earlier this week that their deal to support this PGA TOUR Champions event was being extended through 2025. One quietly appreciated element of this week’s event is that it is one of the first big happenings in this area since Hurricane Ian. For local residents who have been through so much and are out watching golf, being able to get out, walk a beautiful golf course and watch some of the best golfers ever to play the sport offers a small slice of normalcy that they have been missing.
SERVPRO also is back to sponsor the Hero Outpost near the 17th green at the Tiburon Golf Club’s Black Course, offering food, drink and some welcome shade as a sign of appreciation to Military and Service personnel from the Naples area. The area is open to Active, Reserve, Retired and Veterans of the Military, Police, Fire, EMS and Front Line Workers, including doctors and nurses. (Those who wish to attend must sign up in advance, and this year’s admission list is full, but remember the Hero Outpost for 2024 planning.)
Sooker relishes the partnership with Chubb, and the opportunity to be involved with a PGA TOUR Champions tournament that fits the values and goals of SERVPRO so well.
“We have our clients here, we have a great partnership with Chubb, obviously. We love the first responders and what they do,” Sooker said. “So the whole ecosystem works for us. Our clients love this because they're coming in from who knows where, from the north and that weather, to come into Naples for a little while, and just enjoy the time here with us and the other people they may know. But the whole ecosystem really benefits for us, all our stakeholders.”
And once the tournament ends on Sunday, and those shiny hospitality tents have been packed away for another year, for SERVPRO, it will be back to work. In Southwest Florida, there still is plenty to do.