As wildfires rage in California and Canada, and hurricane season is about to kick into gear, the veteran-led Team Rubicon humanitarian organization is always monitoring the possibility of natural disasters with the intensity of The Weather Channel.
Since Team Rubicon was founded by veterans after a massive Haiti earthquake in 2010, the organization has launched 1,100 disaster recovery operations and grown to more than 160,000 volunteers. This kind of volunteer movement doesn’t happen with the help of philanthropic commitments, such as the one Ford Motor Company committed to Team Rubicon on Tuesday.
Ford has been a believer in Team Rubicon’s mission since 2016. It extends its relationship through Team Rubicon Powered by Ford, a five-year, $5.8 million commitment that includes vehicles, philanthropic investment and employee volunteerism, as Ford employees can receive paid time off to join Team Rubicon’s veterans on the front lines of disaster recovery.
“It’s a demonstration of trust,” said Team Rubicon CEO Art delaCruz, a retired U.S. Navy officer. “You can imagine, for an organization that relies on people donating and investing in our vision, a five-year partnership is substantial. The philanthropic investment allows us to get people in the field to help people on their worst day. And then this additional enabler, which is a real special combination of vehicles that allows us to drive forward in a manner to innovate in a disaster space.”
The donation of 17 vehicles for Team Rubicon’s relief efforts includes 10 Ford F-150 PowerBoost hybrid trucks, three F-150 Lightning trucks, two F-Series Super Duty trucks and two Ford Bronco SUVs.
The vehicles will help Team Rubicon’s recovery efforts in areas where power is out or limited, giving crews the ability to power vital equipment like generators, chainsaws or safety lights and also equip trucks with refrigerators to keep food and beverages cold for team members and help any storm victims who need assistance keeping their own food from spoiling.
“What’s unique about these new trucks is the power that they can bring,” delaCruz said. “These hybrid trucks essentially have the ability to drive a generator via the vehicle. And you have energy storage via batteries so you can tap into the battery and also tap into energy from the generators when needed.”
Before this most recent commitment, the Ford Fund had donated $1.5 million to Team Rubicon. The monetary portion of Tuesday’s announcement allows Team Rubicon to allocate funds to areas such as training, transportation to disaster zones, or purchasing additional relief equipment.
“This is a very sizable partnership, the type of thing that makes major disaster responses possible,” delaCruz said. “And probably more importantly, it allows the little recoveries to happen.”
The contributions come at a perfect time for Team Rubicon, which has already responded to 70 operations this year. Eight of those events are considered billion-dollar disasters, which have increased at a rate of 400 percent since 1980, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. In 1980, billion-dollar events occurred every 82 days according to NOAA. Now they’re happening every 18 days.
“The reality is weather-related disasters in the U.S. are becoming more frequent and more severe,” said Bill Ford, Ford Motor Company’s executive chair. “That is why we are significantly expanding our relationship with Team Rubicon, donating a fleet of vehicles and deploying volunteers where they are needed most.”