Sylvan Learning corporate staff and franchisees help those affected to rebuild their lives
The entire country watched helplessly as news coverage showed towns in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico ravaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. As families packed up their belongings and fled to safety, countless homes and businesses were flooded and left in shambles. Among the affected businesses in Harvey and Irma’s paths were dozens of Sylvan Learning Centers that were hit with strong winds and high levels of water.
In response, Sylvan Learning is now rolling out a new program, Sylvan Cares, to help franchisees with hurricane relief. Many of Sylvan’s corporate employees are being dispatched to centers in the Houston and South Florida to help with cleanup efforts at affected locations. The corporate office has donated $10,000 to Sylvan Cares to get emergency funding up and running for franchisees who need help getting back on their feet. The Sylvan franchise community and corporate employees responded with matching donations.
“These franchisees and team members are a part of our Sylvan family. They are facing devastation, but the rest of our team is showing them that they are not alone,” said John McAuliffe, CEO of Sylvan Learning. “We have seen an outpouring of support from our system for those affected by the hurricanes. It just goes to show that in the worst times of tragedy and destruction, our Sylvan family always comes together to help each other.”
The first recipient of Sylvan Cares funding was a director of a center who has been with Sylvan 19 years. She and her entire family were displaced by Hurricane Harvey, lost personal belongings and sustained major damage to her home. She is the caretaker of her disabled husband and three-year-old grandchild. Not only did her family lose personal possessions, they also lost her husband’s medical supplies, including his wheelchair. Due to the 52 inches of rain and subsequent flooding, she was not able to return to her home.
Most recently, Sylvan Cares donated to the Sylvan director and her family which will be used to help with temporary housing and personal needs while FEMA and other aide kicks in. The company has also set up a PayPal account, which allows any Sylvan employee or franchisee to donate directly to this family. When Sylvan’s Senior Marketing Manager Francesca Muhlbaier and other employees heard that the Sylvan director’s 3-year-old granddaughter was left with only one pair of shoes and one outfit, they sent care packages and clothing themselves.
Sadly, this Sylvan director’s situation is not rare among the Sylvan community. Franchisees not only sustained personal losses to their residences, they also felt the business impact of the closure and the displaced families they serve. Many owners have applied and qualified for monetary awards to help offset the downtime and the damages not covered by insurance or aide.
Hurricane Maria caused the most damage to Sylvan’s physical centers, wreaking havoc on the two Puerto Rico locations. An affected franchisee has been awarded monetary help as well as equipment and technology to get the two centers back operating as soon as possible.
In addition to the monetary donations, Sylvan franchisees and their staff have been offering their time to do anything to help remotely. More than 1,200 volunteer hours have been documented by the Sylvan headquarter employees, Sylvan franchisees and center directors across North America to handle calls and emails for their Sylvan family that are in the affected areas.
“These affected Sylvan franchisees are people that are regularly giving back to the community and helping children learn and improve their schoolwork, confidence and self-esteem. Now it’s our turn to help them,” said Susan Valverde, chief franchise operations officer for Sylvan Learning. “It’s our sincere hope that through Sylvan Cares and beyond, we can all find ways to help our Sylvan family members in times of hardship.”