Like most team members, Bola Sagoe says she saw the all-company emails that followed in the wake of a natural disaster that referred to the Toyota Emergency Relief Program (TERP). But it wasn't until tragedy befell her and her family a year ago that the full value of the benefit truly hit home.
Better Days -- Bola Sagoe and her family are now back on track in a new home, thanks in part to financial assistance provided through TERP.
[ditor’s note: Hurricane Dorian lashed the Bahamas over the weekend and continues to threaten Florida and the Southeast U.S. coast. Please consider logging in to Toyota4Good to make a donation to TERP to help affected team members recover more quickly. Select “Donate” under the Disaster Relief FY2020 Program. Choose “California Community Foundation (CCF)” and enter “TERP” for Donation Use. If you’re in need of assistance, apply for a grant up to $2,500. Donations to TERP are incredibly impactful. When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, TERP helped more than 100 affected team members.
Sagoe, a senior treasury accounting analyst , was with her husband and their 8-year-old triplet daughters on a cruise in Jamaica when the builder of their five-month-new home in Frisco, Texas, sent her an urgent text to call as soon as possible. The problem? In the middle of the night, lightning had struck their home, igniting a fire that left very little unscathed.
“I spoke with a close friend who was representing us while we were away,” she says. “He was very careful with his words. We needed to know that something had happened. But he also knew we were on vacation and there really wasn’t anything we could do about it. So he just said, ‘’The damage is significant but we will handle things.’
Nearly everything they owned was gone. Sagoe and her family had no choice but to take up temporary residence in a hotel. A few weeks later, they were able to relocate into a rental home. Gradually they reacquired some basic necessities, like clothes, housewares and furniture, while simultaneously navigating the thicket of insurance paperwork in search of at least partial reimbursement for all of the extra expenses.
The Long Road Back to Normalcy
Talk about a nightmare.
“The biggest challenge was to create an inventory of everything that we’d lost,” says Sagoe. “It was extremely tedious. If I were to offer advice to others it would be to document everything you own, especially the big-ticket items. Scan the receipts. It doesn’t do any good to keep paper receipts if there’s a fire. If you can’t do that, take a video of your home. That will make it easier to remember what you have. We didn’t have that, which made things much more difficult.”
Sagoe says her co-workers — most notably Treasury Accounting National Manager Ted Scribner and Treasury Accounting Manager Linda Tse — were extremely supportive, telling her to not even think about returning to work her first week back in Texas. But rebuilding their lives proved to be almost a full-time job in itself that consumed them for several months after the disaster. Among other things, that meant arranging for after-hours childcare for their daughters while her husband and her sorted through the details.
A Nearly Total Loss -- Here's a small glimpse of the damage done to Bola Sagoe's home by a lightning-ignited fire.
That’s where TERP proved to be such a godsend. The program offers emergency financial grants to team members in times of urgent and dire need. Pete Pupecki, Accounting’s HR business advisor, encouraged Sagoe to apply. Relocation Analyst Lauren Marshall, in particular, helped walk her through the process.
“I’d heard of it, but to be honest hadn’t paid much attention to it,” says Sagoe. “Luckily, I was able to qualify. We had insurance that covered a lot of our expenses. But we also had a lot of costs that couldn’t be reimbursed, like all of the extra childcare. TERP really helped with that, which was huge for me.”
‘I Was Extremely Moved’
This story definitely has a happy ending. Sagoe and her family recently moved into a new home built in the same Frisco neighborhood. Life for them has returned to normal. But Sagoe will never forget the generosity of others, including so many at Toyota, who helped them complete the journey.
“People in the Toyota community and the community where we live were extremely generous,” she says. “Donations came in from folks in Frisco but also McKinney, Plano and Allen — people we didn’t even know. Complete strangers would drop things off at our builder’s office. I was extremely moved.”
“In the end, though, all of the “things” really don’t matter as long as your family is safe,” she adds. “It turned out that the lightning struck near the chimney and the fire started close to our daughters’ bedroom. If we had been home, who knows what would have happened?”
September is National Preparedness Month. We can’t control natural disasters, like lightning storms or hurricanes, but we can certainly do our best to be prepared.
As members of the Toyota family, it’s also important to note that benefits like TERP only exist when we all commit to helping one another. TERP is a grant program funded by team members. All team member donations made to TERP are eligible for Toyota’s dollar-for-dollar match via Toyota4Good
To donate to TERP, visit Toyota4Good
, and select Donate under the Disaster Relief FY2020 Program. Choose California Community Foundation (CCF) and enter “TERP” for Donation Use. Note: CCF manages the funds, not the TERP program.
By Dan Miller