HIGHER LOGIC CARES: Through our 2019 Charity Program, we sent a group of nine staff volunteers to Houston, Texas, in May 2019 to assist Team Rubicon in disaster response efforts. This story is about their personal experiences on-site and what it’s like to participate.
Here at Higher Logic, community is our business. The same could be said for Team Rubicon, though their core motto is “Disasters are our business. Veterans are our passion.” While our staff (AKA Higher Logic’s “Orange Army”) utilizes their skills to build and strengthen online communities via our engagement platform, Team Rubicon’s crew (AKA “TRibe”) has the opportunity to build communities in a more literal sense—through vital disaster response work.
“Team Rubicon is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that utilizes the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Founded in 2010, Team Rubicon has deployed across the United States and around the world to provide immediate relief to those impacted by disasters and humanitarian crises.”
All together, nine eligible Orange Army volunteers (myself included) geared up to join the TRibe’s mission for a week in Houston, working alongside a series of military personnel, veterans, and fellow “kick-ass civilian” volunteers to rebuild a home that suffered damage from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
To say the experience was rewarding would be an understatement. (Just grab a tissue and read the Volunteer Feedback section....)
When preparing for the trip, Team Rubicon sent us a clear message: this was going to be hard work, we would have to “earn our shirt,” and ultimately, arrive ready to “get shit done” (the latter being one of their core principles). And that’s what we did.
In fact, the Houston home we worked on was scheduled to take at least one week to clear out and perform demolition—we did it in two days. It was really special to know that our teamwork sped up the process between our arrival and when the TRibe is set to hand the keys back over to the family with a celebratory, “Welcome home” (later this summer).
Here's a word from our main point of contact on-site during this specific rebuild, who recently shared this project update within the community of rebuild volunteers:
"We had some awesome volunteers on the house. This house was pretty much destroyed by Harvey. The roof had several large holes which allowed water in the walls. Initially I was overwhelmed with the scope of work but through some fantastic corporate volunteers like Higher Logic and fabulous Greyshirts we have made significant progress. We went from mucking out to demo, replacing most of the studs, new HVAC and electrical and are now done with insulation. Next week it’s drywall and mudding. Thank you for all of the volunteers that demonstrate what selfless service looks like every day."
—Christopher Reeves, Team Rubicon Clay Hunt Fellow, Retired Army Command Sergeant Major
Team Rubicon Clay Hunt Fellow Chris Reeves on-site prepping our group of volunteers for the scope of the work ahead.
Who is Team Rubicon? The Mission + Principles Behind the “Greyshirt”
While our volunteer journey kicked off in Houston, the story of Team Rubicon began in 2010 when U.S. Marines Jake Wood and William McNulty (Team Rubicon’s founders) decided to act in response to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti and left many homeless.
For the growing volunteer-led organization, it’s not just about performing vital disaster response work. It’s about reintegrating veterans back into civilian life through means of a purpose.
Team Rubicon refers to their loyal, hardy advocates as “Greyshirts” - the foundation of their organization (and it’s about a whole lot more than wearing the grey shirt you earn). Becoming a Team Rubicon Greyshirt is all about adopting the TRibe’s no nonsense Cultural Principles (pictured).
Before I go on to share the must-read personal feedback from our volunteers, please take a moment to acknowledge Clay Hunt...
Gratitude for Those Serving in the Spirit of Clay Hunt
The Clay Hunt Fellows Program (CHFP) is another cornerstone of the Team Rubicon organization. Established in 2012, “the program was inspired by Marine veteran and original TR member Clay Hunt (1982-2011), who embodied service, commitment, sacrifice, and loyalty. Through their role, these fellows are expected to represent Team Rubicon in the spirit of Clay Hunt, holding the Program and the organization in the highest regard and serving as an ambassador to each, as Clay did."
On-site in Houston, Clay Hunt’s legacy is strong – several of the TRibe members we had the opportunity to work with are recognized as Clay Hunt Fellowship Alumni (and it shows in their strong leadership and commitment to serve). We were honored to work alongside each of them, learning more about Clay and his impact on the organization along the way.
I would like to sincerely praise the Clay Hunt Fellows that worked so closely with us to make this rebuild experience a positive one (thanks for the guidance, laughs, insight, and inspiration): Brian Calcagno, Army National Guard; Tomás De Oliveira, U.S. Marine Corps; Christopher Reeves, U.S. Army; Sam Schreier, U.S. Army; Jessica Gutierrez, U.S. Air Force; Teaira Johnson, U.S. Army; Cindy Robison, U.S. Air Force; and Dylan Nuttle, U.S. Marine Corps.
A Week Volunteering with Team Rubicon: Cultural Values Aligned
On-site, our cultural values aligned with Team Rubicon Greater Houston in a remarkable way. I think I can speak for all of my fellow Orange Army volunteers when I say that this experience was a worthwhile one we will never forget (thankfully, I don’t have to speak for them…keep reading for their stories).
Since this was my first hands-on experience doing disaster response work (or really any sort of home deconstruction for that matter), I naturally had a lot of questions about the process. And in an environment rich with encouragement like the one we were in, I never felt uncomfortable asking them. Each time I had a question—you know, like, “Hey Chris, we’ve removed hundreds of nails from the structure, why isn’t the house falling down again?”—our TRibe of leaders was more than happy to offer me their full attention and explanation.
This aligned well with Higher Logic’s “Casual Approachability” value and made this a comfortable environment to work and grow in – we could approach anyone, encourage more communication, and felt empowered to help each other out. We were approached multiple times and encouraged to drink lots of water, take as many breaks needed, and learn a variety of different tasks to find our niche (for example, for me, it was tearing down ceilings; for Sam, it was tearing up tile; for Steven, it was smashing through walls).
It was also clear to see Higher Logic's "Conscious Inclusivity" and "Authentic Character" values (two of my personal favorites) thriving within the Team Rubicon organization – we had the opportunity to volunteer alongside many TRibe leaders and Greyshirts who boast impressively diverse military backgrounds (that look nothing like our own), and as kick-ass civilians, they made us feel welcome and supported.
How each of us got there wasn't as important as the fact that we were there now, connecting and working all together toward a shared mission where each of our unique perspectives and contributions felt valued. The people we worked with were as genuine, compassionate, empathetic, goal-oriented, community-focused, and intentional as they come.
The Team Rubicon Greater Houston Headquarters
It didn’t take long to realize that working with Team Rubicon was going to be a fun, exciting, and interesting week. We first met the crew at their headquarters in Houston, which features a series of in-house bunks they built for volunteers, showers, laundry, and even a kitchen where a kind woman named Alice, deemed “Mom,” made our volunteer lunches and pack them for us every day. She also cooked team dinners for the volunteers staying on site.
There was a keg of cold beer waiting for us at the daily 4:30 PM debrief where we’d gather with the Team Rubicon's leadership and fellow volunteers to discuss our unique experiences working on site at different houses. In the spirit of our "Energetic Excellence" value, it was nice to be around people with a shared sense of appreciation for growth and connection.
As we shared stories and listened, the volume of our impact and participation became clearer. The volunteer coordinators were grateful for our presence and participation and we never had to question once if they were thankful for our time, as they demonstrated immense pride in the work while encouraging us to take initiative and do the same (well-deserved shoutout to Brian and Tomás).
Our cultural values aligned so well in fact, that a handful of our Orange Army members (myself included) decided to join the TRibe as official "Greyshirts.” We all look forward to seizing local opportunities to serve again.
Volunteer Feedback 📣 What We’re Saying about Team Rubicon
I could go on and on about what this experience meant to me, but I’m only one person (and I’d never ask you to take my word for it). Why? Because no single personal experience is identical.
So, I’m passing the (figurative) mic to some of my fellow Higher Logic Cares volunteers so they can share more details about how this experience impacted them personally. 🎤
Without further ado, enjoy their personal reflections and takeaways on what it was like to volunteer with Higher Logic Cares and Team Rubicon Greater Houston:
“I thought it was a privilege to be selected to represent Higher Logic via our week of charity with Team Rubicon. After day one, I realized the real privilege was getting to work and sweat alongside a group of selfless volunteers helping a family in need. Our experience was made even more meaningful because it was a ‘shared’ experience; #AllTogether has never meant more to me! On our last day, I made a goal to carry the mindset of ‘If I don’t do this, who will?’ into my everyday actions. The house we worked so hard on, the Houston community, and our own special Team Rubicon community have yet to leave my mind.”
–Lily Larsen, Implementation Project Manager
“It was an incredibly rewarding experience to help a family in need and make a difference in someone else’s life. A direct involvement in the community that Team Rubicon facilitates undoubtedly and visibly strengthens bonds between those lending the helping hand and those on the receiving end. I am eternally grateful to Team Rubicon for continuing their effort and for elevating us all as social beings. I am definitely hoping to remain committed to their cause and participate in future projects whenever possible.”
–Ilya Pisman, Senior Cloud Platform Engineer
“Team Rubicon was so welcoming from the first moment we stepped on site. The organization leadership set the tone to make sure we each felt empowered in the work and could trust our fellow volunteers for backup. The sense of community really set this experience apart as an opportunity I would jump at to participate in again.”
–Maggie Mitchell, Motion Graphics Designer & Video Specialist
“Working with Team Rubicon was my first time taking part in a construction related volunteer project. It was definitely a tough (and tiring!) week but the experience was extremely rewarding and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. The Team Rubicon mission statement and national reach have inspired me to sign up as a “Greyshirt” and get involved in projects here in the Virginia area. I look forward to getting back out there to Get Shit Done!”
–Richard Holley, Implementation Project Manager
“Joining the Team Rubicon Rebuild team in Houston was the most extensive volunteer opportunity I’ve participated in. Team Rubicon structures their projects and manages volunteers to make each volunteer highly impactful which made for a very fulfilling experience. Getting to spend extended time with coworkers, some of whom I hadn’t met and most of whom I haven’t worked directly with, was an unexpectedly welcome bonus that I truly believe will have a permanent positive impact on my work relationships and effectiveness.”
–Marco Falconi, Software Architect
“I often look back and reflect on my volunteer experience down in Houston with Team Rubicon. Never have I worked alongside such an empowering and inspiring group of people, both on the TR side and Higher Logic. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives, that we forget to stop and think about other people. The week I spent in Houston, seeing Harvey’s destruction firsthand and meeting the people directly affected, has helped me see things in a new perspective. It was such an honor to be a part of a project so much bigger than myself. Also, I learned how to use a sledgehammer and tear up tile which was pretty rad.”
–Sam Swift, Sales Enablement Specialist
"Volunteering at Team Rubicon was such a rewarding experience! This is my second time bringing a team together to do this and I’m always impressed by our HL volunteers. They are extremely hardworking and always have a positive attitude. The Team Rubicon team was just as impressive and we are looking forward to partnering with them again in the near future."–Holly Keener, Senior Human Resources Manager
“I loved wrecking walls and winding down with our fellow volunteers during the debrief in the TR warehouse each day. Not only were they equipped with cold beers for us after a hard day’s work, they recommended a lot of good breweries in Houston for us to check out.”
–Steven Wittenberg, SMB Account Executive
That they did, Steven, that they did...Thanks to all at Team Rubicon who shared their time with us on-site and off!
A Volunteer Partnership with a Bright Community-Building Future
After a successful kick-off volunteer trip with Team Rubicon Greater Houston, it’s safe to say this is the beginning of a volunteer partnership with a bright future impacting communities in need. We look forward to continuing our volunteer partnership with Team Rubicon and giving more of our employees the opportunity to participate in a community building experience, where they can positively impact people in a hands-on way and walk away feeling proud of their participation.
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