From the islands of the Caribbean to parts of western Texas, the storms of 2017 were devastating. It left communities in pieces and forced many out of their homes. For those in the center like Shotsey Jacobs, a team lead located in Orange, Texas, the winds brought a harsh new reality but also unearthed a fountain of kindness.
Living in Southwest Texas, Shotsey is accustomed to storms but nothing like she experienced during Harvey. Having never flooded before, Shotsey initially felt safe, with many reports saying her house was outside the flood zone. But when water started to trickle in from underneath her door, Shotsey began to worry.
After a few minutes, what she thought was a trickle became a small stream. Growing more alarmed as water swirled around inside, Shotsey began to rethink her plan. She got up, opened the front door, only to be nearly swept away as a river rushed in to flood her home.
In an hour, the water level rose to waist deep. The time for calm was over; Shotsey began to gather what she could and ran to her SUV on the driveway, located on higher ground. The water rose to the running boards, but didn’t reach the inside. For 12 hours, Shotsey sat awaiting rescue, which finally came when a boat from the “Cajun Navy” — volunteers from Louisiana in small fishing boats – rescued her.
Nervously watching from Colorado, Shotsey’s manager, Dawn Turpin, watched the Texas storm intently, concerned about Shotsey’s safety. Dawn began frantically texting her. Every few minutes she’d check-in, asking, “How are you?” For Shotsey, those texts helped her stay calm despite the whipping winds and rising waters which had put half of her house and neighborhood underwater.
Throughout the crisis, Shotsey came to appreciate how valued she was. “I feel so appreciated. SYKES is family,” Shotsey said. “Everybody is looking out for each other. And on my team, Dawn and her leadership proved it that horrible day.”
Once the storm was over, Shotsey began the process of rebuilding. To assist with the cleanup efforts, her sister sent her a trailer from North Carolina to temporarily live in. The generous gift allowed Shotsey to work on her home when she had spare time during the day and be onsite to meet with FEMA — or chase off looters.
“There have been several instances of people walking in our house looking to steal stuff.” Shotsey explained. “We even had our washer and dryer and our bedroom set stolen from the yard. One time two guys walked in and I grabbed my shotgun to protect myself.”
A few days after Shotsey was rescued, Dawn texted, “When you get a chance, I want to talk and see what I can do to help or if there’s anything you need. Nothing work related.” When Shotsey called, Dawn was ready with her OneNote, typing a list of items Shotsey needed. The list was extensive; it included practical items such as new computer hardware and phone equipment. It also included the “stupid” small stuff like writing utensils, stickies, and other small items that make an office feel like a comforting space.
After she got through the list of essentials, Dawn began piecing together items she knew Shotsey was missing. Items like shoes, socks that had floated away in a drawer, and oddly enough Oreos – which Shotsey loved. Dawn began collecting the items for Shotsey and shipped them to her in Texas, a little at a time.
“I wanted her to feel every other day she was getting something special to help take her mind off the fact that she lost everything,” Dawn said. “I thought, if I was in a similar situation, what kind of things would make me know that I mattered; while I can’t be there and help her pick up all the garbage or help in real life, I wanted to at the very least put a smile on her face.”
The culture of caring isn’t exclusive to the top ranks however. It flows everywhere. During the crisis, Shotsey’s fellow agents reached out to ask how she was doing and to express condolences. “We have a family feel; we take care of our own,” Shotsey said. “When one of my agents has a sick child or pet, I’m right there checking in! It’s more than just words. People actually care.”
Shotsey was blown away by the generosity of her family, friends, coworkers, and Dawn during the storm. “I’m blessed; it’s more than I expected,” Shotsey said. “It’s almost overwhelming, the kindness. Dawn was a rock during the storm. And she has been there every day.”