One of Kansas City’s top startups dropped its tailgates this week to help Kansans ravaged by a violent twister.
“The damage and injuries suffered because of the storms were outside of everybody’s control, but how we react and how our community reacts is vital,” said Eric Bolduc, a customer success specialist for Bungii who was among those responding to the tornado’s aftermath. “It is the one thing we can control.”
Drivers from Bungii — whose trucks typically respond to consumers using the Bungii app for on-demand hauling services — were dispatched Wednesday to help volunteers sifting through massive amounts of storm damage, said Ben Jackson, co-founder of the Overland Park-based tech startup.
A rain-wrapped EF4 tornado left a trail of destruction Tuesday evening from southwest of Lawrence, through Douglas County, and into the outer rings of the Kansas City metro. One of the areas worst hit: The small town of Linwood, Kansas, where at least a dozen homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm.
“I saw on the news that the people of Linwood needed a lot of help. Two specific things that were mentioned included strong people who could lift/move/clear large or heavy objects and help transporting items (food, equipment, debris),” Jackson said. “It’s uncanny how closely our company fits those needs, so we decided to call an audible for the day, circle the wagons and send our fleet of drivers out to Linwood.”
At least 10 Bungii drivers and other company representatives made the trip, he said.
They were met by more than 70 volunteers moving to and from a base of operations led by the Sherman Township Fire and Rescue Services and American Red Cross, one of the drivers said.
“Natural disasters often feel far away and like a tragedy in a completely different part of the world, but that wasn’t the case this time,” Bolduc said. “We had family and friends only minutes away from where the tornado touched down in Linwood, so the call to serve our neighbors was something we all felt we couldn’t let pass by.”
Drivers assisted volunteers with loading and hauling away debris and fallen trees; transporting furniture and belongings from affected homes to storage units; hauling supplies — water, shovels, food, medical equipment, other tools — throughout Linwood; and clearing blocked or partially blocked roads to help emergency and supply vehicles make their ways through the impacted areas.
Multiple schools, churches and other organizations from across the Kansas City region stepped up to help the Linwood community, Bungii representatives said.
“The Bungii drivers who were on the ground were so impressed by all of the volunteers, but more importantly, they were inspired by the families and homeowners who were out the very next day willing to take on the challenge of starting over again,” said Bolduc. “I can’t imagine what it must be like, standing in the place where your home once stood. But Linwood wasn’t just standing, waiting for someone to make their lives feel normal again. They were working to bring everything back on their own.”