Dan Rather, who got his big break covering Hurricane Carla as it barreled toward Texas in 1961, saluted the American Red Cross of Greater Houston and its supporters like BBVA Compass for their "willingness of heart" at the disaster relief organization's annual fundraising luncheon last week.
Rather ascended the ranks of TV journalism after his compelling coverage during Hurricane Carla, eventually landing on the anchor's desk at the CBS Evening News. The native Houstonian delivered a poignant keynote address at the American Red Cross luncheon, which is aimed at raising funds for critical community services while honoring donors and supporters that help make those services possible. Since 2011, BBVA Compass has given nearly $800,000 to the organization to assist in its disaster response efforts across the bank's Sunbelt footprint, and also provided financial support for the luncheon.
"A willingness of heart is what brought so many of you here today in this room," Rather told those assembled, including the BBVA Compass contingent, at the Hilton Americas hotel in downtown Houston. "... And what keeps the Red Cross going -- year in year out, decade in, decade out -- is that same sense of willingness of heart."
Since 2011, BBVA Compass has given nearly $800,000 to the American Red Cross to assist in its disaster response efforts across the bank's Sunbelt footprint
Rather said he especially wanted to shine a light on the underreported side of the American Red Cross efforts. While it’s known for marshaling massive resources to respond to natural disasters, it also responds to at least 30 home fires per week just in Houston, supports the rehabilitation and recovery of American veterans through a number of services, and transports the elderly and chronically ill to critical medical appointments, among many other things.
"It's those hour by hour, middle of the night, day by day things the Red Cross does that mean so much in holding any community together," he said.
That's also a belief that drives BBVA Compass' own disaster-response efforts. The bank's Corporate Responsibility & Reputation team is dialed in and connected to community leaders such as the American Red Cross, and those relationships help the bank move quickly to respond to crises. While a large portion of its disaster-relief efforts do go to helping its communities and clients recover from natural disasters, it is not limited to that. Take, for instance, the bank's $20,000 grant to the Zebra Coalition in 2016 after a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The Zebra Coalition is a network of organizations that provide services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all youth ages 13-24.
We'd rather step into the void when there's a community in need than look away
"The grant from BBVA Compass was one of the first we received," said Zebra Coalition Development Manager Earl Johnson. "We saw close to a 30 percent increase in the number of youth coming through our doors after the Pulse shooting. The grant helped us provide counseling and other programs for vulnerable youth who felt even more vulnerable after Pulse. It was incredible for us to have that support, and we are so grateful."
BBVA Compass Director of Corporate Responsibility & Reputation Reymundo Ocañas said his team's goal, whether it's in responding to natural disasters or man-made ones, is to create opportunities for the people in the bank's communities who need it most.
"That's part of being a good corporate citizen, but it's also just part of being human," he said. "We'd rather step into the void when there's a community in need than look away."