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PreSonus Community Pulls Together In Wake Of Floods

...this August, one dedicated engineer was seen rowing to the factory in a kayak—and he was one of the lucky ones who had a way to get to work. Remarkably, the PreSonus factory wasn’t damaged during the historic floods that hit Louisiana in mid-August, although the water crept up right to the base of its building. Several of its employees, however, took heavy damages, and a few lost everything. As the floodwaters receded and PreSonus began fielding offers of help from friends and associates everywhere, the company set up a GoFundMe page as a central point to collect donations for its employees. The response was, in a word, remarkable. In just over a single day online, the page had surpassed its initial goal of $15,000, drawing donations from fellow PreSonus employees, dealers, distributors, and customers—not to mention complete strangers and even competitors. The fundraising goal was subsequently adjusted up to $20,000, then $25,000, and eventually $35,000. At press time it was hovering just above that point, at a grand total of $36,083.

“We’re beyond humbled that we have so many friends in the industry,” said Rick Naqvi, vice president of sales for PreSonus. “It’s times like this that you realize how much people actually care.”

Unlike hurricanes, which meteorologists track obsessively for days before they make landfall, the flooding in the Baton Rouge area this August took many by surprise. As Naqvi puts it, an intense rainstorm simply positioned itself over the city “and sat there for four days.” By the time the rain stopped, flooding of Baton Rouge’s two main rivers, the Comite to the west and the Amite to the east, had reached out-of-control proportions. Around the city and its suburbs of Central and Denham Springs, water in the streets was four to five feet high. The area took a record 4 trillion gallons of water in four days—more rain than the city of Los Angeles has gotten in the past five years. All told, a reported 13 people lost their lives in the floods. At least 30,000 needed rescue, and an estimated 100,000 homes were damaged. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, around 40,000 were staying in emergency shelters. “We’re used to flooding here in Louisiana,” said Naqvi, “but this was on a level we’ve never seen before.”

Of PreSonus’s 80 employees, eight suffered severe damage to their homes and property. For those who don’t have flood insurance, repairs are expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000 a piece. Once the flooding receded, it was a race against time to strip away ruined flooring, baseboards, and sheetrock before mold could set in. From there it will be an arduous process of cleanup and salvage work before the rebuilding can even begin. The funds raised through PreSonus’s GoFundMe page will be delivered solely to the eight employees and divided according to need, Naqvi said. “Once you split it up among eight people, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what they’ll need to rebuild,” he added. “But it’s a blessing and it will help for sure. We appreciate it so much.”

As for the PreSonus factory—it barely escaped disaster. “One more day of rain,” said Naqvi, “and we absolutely would have gotten flooded.” As it was, $30,000 worth of tradeshow materials stored in a shipping container outside were ruined. The company was completely shut down for two days, chiefly because few could get to work or function even if they got there. Electricity and phone service went out over much of the Baton Rouge area, and many were trapped in their neighborhoods for some time after the rain stopped. As the days went by, a skeleton crew of PreSonus employees trickled back to get the factory up and running, scrambling to keep pace with orders. “The thing is, we’re a global company and the world doesn’t stop because we got flooded,” said Naqvi. “We wanted to try to get back to normal as quickly as we could.”

Meanwhile, the PreSonus team has witnessed numerous acts of kindness in the wake of the disaster—and taken part in some themselves. The day after the rain stopped, PreSonus employees were at work in the homes of co-workers to help start the cleanup. Help came in from friends around the music world, including a PreSonus customer from New York who’d been living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Now back in New York, he made the trek to Baton Rouge with a crew of helpers to pitch in anywhere they could. PreSonus staffers who play in bands took part in a relief concert September 4, with another to follow on October 29. For musician customers who lost gear in the disaster, PreSonus has also been providing loaners—“infinite loaners,” said Naqvi—so they can keep working. Its GoFundMe page has been passed around rampantly on social media along with pictures from the disaster, drawing what has been a thoroughly unexpected level of generosity from friends and strangers alike.

“Social media has been key in getting the message out there,” said Naqvi. “When people see the images of what the city looked like, all they want to know is how they can help. The amount of compassion has been awesome. When something like this happens, sometimes that’s when you see the best in people.”

To send a donation for PreSonus employees affected by the August floods, visit the GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/2tf4gxh8

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