Southwest Airlines is committed to ensuring our Employees, Customers, and communities are prepared for any disasters that come our way. Beyond this commitment, Southwest also extends its support to communities by proactively providing cash and in-kind support to several national and local organizations focused on preparedness, response, and resilience.
Southwest annually supports our national disaster and crisis response partners, including American Red Cross, Team Rubicon, and Feeding America. In the spirit of National Preparedness Month, we want to take this moment to spotlight two additional and invaluable partnerships, Airlink and All Hands and Hearts, dedicated to working on the frontlines to support communities impacted by disaster.
Airlink is a global humanitarian organization delivering critical aid to communities in crisis by providing airlift and logistical solutions to nonprofit partners, changing the way the humanitarian community responds to disasters around the world. Since its inception in 2010, Airlink has flown more than 8,000 relief workers and transported nearly 5,000,000 pounds of humanitarian cargo.
"Southwest Airlines' commitment to aiding communities struck by disasters is paramount for Airlink,” said Steve Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer. “After Hurricane Ian, Southwest made a significant impact by enabling swift transport of community-based organizations to Florida. Its annual ticket donations empower our partners to enhance their response capacity, sending more volunteers to where they're needed most. The critical first step in disaster response is getting there, and Southwest makes that possible.”
All Hands and Hearts
Formed in 2005, All Hands and Hearts provides community-inspired, volunteer-powered disaster relief. It communicates with community members and then deploys its unique model of engaging volunteers to enable direct impact, helping to build safer, more resilient schools, homes, and infrastructure.
“The partnership with Southwest has been critical to the success of All Hands and Hearts. Southwest is always eager to help, which enables our teams to quickly respond in time of need to those communities that need us most,” said Jessica Thompson, Chief Executive Officer.
As we navigate the challenges of operating during the unexpected, Southwest is thankful to work alongside organizations like Airlink and All Hands and Hearts to help with recovery efforts in impacted areas across the country.
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At Southwest Airlines, we believe educated communities are empowered communities. Championing educational attainment for all continues to be a foundational principle that drives our work across the communities we serve. We are proud to work with organizations that help us achieve this goal and help our communities prosper.
In partnership with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Southwest Airlines supports the Hispanic community and helps students reach success while staying connected to family through the "¡Lanzate!/Take Off!" education travel award program. Since 2004, Southwest has helped more than 1,500 students soar by awarding round trip tickets through this travel grants program and we’re excited to support 185 students for the 2022-2023 school year!
The ¡Lanzate! program was designed to help Hispanic college students stay connected to what’s important in their lives—their family. It allows students to pursue their educational goals no matter the distance while maintaining relationships with their family members back home.
“It wasn’t until I was hundreds of miles away from home that I realized how important it was to be around the people you love,” said student Erik Negrete. “This award doesn’t just benefit me or my family in one particular way, it allows me to worry less about finances and focus on what’s important to me—my family and education.”
Our Heart is to champion causes and make the connections that empower communities to thrive. With our strong community partnerships, we help build resilience in the cities we serve. But Southwest is much more than a partner. Through investment, empowerment, and education we continually work to make communities more connected.
“I will be forever grateful to the ¡Lanzate!/Take Off! award for getting me to my family these last four years,” said 2022 recipient Chad Vigil. “Thanks to this amazing program, I can find a convenient ticket through Southwest and simply book it. I get to focus on my finals and not stress about flights. I’ve utilized my tickets to see my family for every break, which is something I’ve never had the privilege of doing before, and I have ¡Lanzate! to thank for that.”
For more information on HACU and the "¡Lanzate!/Take Off!" education travel award program, visit https://www.hacu.net/hacu/Lanzate.asp.
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September is National Preparedness Month, a dedicated time that reminds us about the importance of disaster and emergency planning. Southwest Airlines is committed to supporting our Employees, Customers, and communities during times of need.
At Southwest, we’re more than an airline—we’re your neighbor, and we recognize how critical it is that we’re prepared to respond to and support unexpected events. Through our Community Outreach efforts, we demonstrate this commitment by partnering with national and local organizations to support services and programs focused on preparedness, response, and resilience throughout the year.
When disaster strikes, these organizations are on the ground and ready to help. In fact, many of our partners are currently hard at work responding to the water crisis occurring in Jackson, Mississippi. Southwest supports its recovery efforts in impacted areas by providing cash donations as well as e-passes to assist in transportation needs for volunteers and staff. We also collaborate with departments like provisioning and cargo for supply and shipping needs.
Our national disaster and crisis response partners include:
The American Red Cross
The American National Red Cross is a non-profit humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education in the United States.
“Disaster Responder Program members like Southwest Airlines are truly extraordinary because they understand the importance of having vital resources in place before a disaster strikes,” shared Anne McKeough, Chief Development Officer at the American Red Cross. “We are extremely grateful to forward-thinking donors like Southwest Airlines who ensure that we stand ready to help people in their darkest hours, whenever and wherever we’re needed most.”
Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.
Rapid Rewards ® Members can also support Team Rubicon by donating their Rapid Rewards ® Points at swa.is/pointsdonation.
"Team Rubicon is ready to serve communities before, during, and after disasters. Southwest Airlines' monetary and in-kind support allows Team Rubicon to mobilize thousands of volunteers by flying them to and from disaster zones across the country. We are incredibly grateful to Southwest Airlines for their commitment to Team Rubicon and vulnerable communities, especially during critical times of need,” said Art delaCruz, Chief Executive Officer of Team Rubicon.
Feeding America ® , the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, and its network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and more than 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries, and meal programs provides meals to tens of millions of people each year.
To support Feeding America please visit www.feedingamerica.org/donate
“The Feeding America network stages emergency supplies strategically throughout the country so we can distribute quickly when disaster strikes,” said Patrick Crawford, Senior Director of Disaster Services at Feeding America. “We are thankful to Southwest Airlines for their generous support of our work to provide food and other essentials to communities during challenging times.”
Unfortunately, as the frequency and intensity of disasters continue to increase, emergencies continue to impact our communities. We encourage you all to join Southwest in supporting these organizations and making a difference by donating through the links above. It’s an honor for Southwest to play a role in supporting these organizations and the crucial work they do. We remain dedicated to serving in unique ways that are true to Southwest to help those when they need us most.
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For over 50 years, Southwest Airlines’ Purpose has been to connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. And when it comes to college students who are studying away from home—connecting to their family is what’s most important! As longtime supporters of the Hispanic community, we know the impact familial ties can have on the success of a student’s educational journey. That’s why we created our signature !Lánzate!/Take Off! Travel Award Program in partnership with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).
The program supports Hispanic college students who travel away from home to pursue higher education. Students who are recognized with the "Lanzate! / Take Off!" education travel award are able to use roundtrip tickets on Southwest to stay connected with their loved ones. For these students, removing the financial burden of traveling home during the school year allows them to focus on their college career and achieve their dreams of graduating and pursuing thriving careers.
“We know that educated communities are empowered communities,” said Laura Nieto, Director of Community Outreach for Southwest Airlines. “Championing educational attainment for all continues to be a foundational principle that drives our work across the communities we serve.”
Since its inception in 2005, Southwest has helped more than 1,700 students soar by awarding roundtrip tickets, valued at more than $2 million. All applicants must complete an online application including an essay describing their inspiration to seek a college degree. Up to 185 students across the country will be eligible to be awarded four roundtrip tickets to use during the school year. Online applications will be accepted now through April 29, 2022. For more details on the !Lánzate!/Take Off! Travel Award Program please visit www.hacu.net
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Southwest Airlines is committed to our communities during times of crisis and it is critical that we’re prepared to respond and support unexpected events. Through our Community Outreach efforts, we demonstrate this commitment by partnering with national and local organizations to support services focused on preparedness, response, and resilience. The devastating storms that tore through the heartland last weekend have impacted many communities throughout Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. Our national partners, The American Red Cross, Team Rubicon, and Feeding America have responded quickly to the catastrophic damage caused by the storms. These organizations are working hard to provide safe shelter, food, cleaning supplies, and recovery support in the face of one of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in years.
Team Rubicon volunteers clearing the roads from the aftermath of the storm.In response to the catastrophic damage and deployment needs from our partners, Southwest Airlines is donating $25,000 to each of our three partners to support their response efforts. This is in addition to the year-round financial and travel support we provide these three organizations. Donations of any size will further their mission to provide aid and comfort to those affected. If you would like to join us in supporting the incredible work our trusted partner organizations are doing in this time of crisis visit:
The American Red Cross
Southwest also continues to stay in touch with the local government of each impacted state to provide assistance where we can. For example, we are coordinating with Kentucky’s Office of Emergency Management to donate more than 9,400 snacks and 4,800 cans of water. Our Hearts remain with those impacted.
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September marks National Preparedness Month and Southwest Airlines is proud to honor our partners dedicated to building resilient communities. At Southwest, we take care of People because we are more than an airline – we are your neighbor. Responding in times of disaster is one of the many ways we display our People-first Culture. Just like Southwest, our partner, Team Rubicon, is committed to serving their communities with Heart.
Team Rubicon’s mission is to provide relief to those affected by disaster, no matter when or where it strikes. They mobilize veterans to continue their service, leveraging their skills to help people prepare, respond, and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises all over the country. Since 2016, we’ve partnered with Team Rubicon by providing complimentary travel to their more than 130,000 volunteers across the country to assist communities in need.
At any given time, Team Rubicon can have up to 1,500 volunteers activated across the country. These volunteers may need transportation to assist communities impacted by disasters, help at food distribution centers, deliver food to vulnerable populations, and provide assistance staffing Coronavirus (COVID-19) test facilities throughout the U.S. Amidst COVID-19, Team Rubicon is still focused on its core mission of disaster response and is currently responding to Hurricane Laura and the windstorm in Utah, while monitoring the wildfires in California, Washington, and Oregon. Team Rubicon prides itself on being there to serve…no matter what.
In 2020 alone, Team Rubicon has conducted more than 300 operations in more than 200 cities across the U.S. Each day brings new requests of support to help those in need when disaster strikes.
Safety and preparedness are of the utmost importance at Southwest. We’re grateful to Team Rubicon, along with our other disaster partners, as they are able to activate at a moment’s notice to serve communities when it is needed most. Visit Team Rubicon’s website to see how you can support their efforts.
Team Rubicon expanded its capabilities to respond to COVID-19, including this food support operation in Sacramento, CA Photography: Team Rubicon/Angela Brush
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This blog was originally authored by Rogue Gallart, president of the Central Florida Disability Chamber, who unexpectedly passed away prior to its publishing. The legacy he created will continue with the CFDC and the community and he will be remembered as an exceptional diversity/disability champion. Rogue will be missed as a great leader and friend.
In 2009, local business leaders and I set out to do something revolutionary: to start a Chamber of Commerce that specifically addresses the needs of people with disabilities in the Orlando, Florida area. We noticed a gap between businesses and disabled business owners and want to change that. We focused on increasing connectivity and driving economic growth by helping our business partners increase their inclusion of People with disabilities in Central Florida.
Ten years later, we are now called the Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce (CFDC) and our mission is to provide information and education on business creation and growth to businesses with operations in the Central Florida area. We partner with hundreds of companies, including Southwest Airlines, to support entrepreneurs through all stages of business development. This includes networking, identifying potential business concepts and opportunities, and determining potential funding sources for business educational events and seminars. The CFDC also works to advance economic opportunities for entrepreneurs with disabilities; including service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. It’s all a part of our goal to increase the inclusion of all people in our society.
Joining Forces for our Veterans
One of the programs that the CFDC is most proud of is our Veterans Business Initiative. Every year we invite 100 military veterans, spouses and family members to attend a 10-week rigorous career training program. During the program, we mentor veterans to help them find that perfect job that aligns with their career goals and career strengths. We review their resume, provide training for job market literacy, and prep them to enter the workforce. We also help disabled veterans and those with PTSD navigate through the job application process and prepare for upcoming Employment opportunities and entrepreneurial pathways.
To date, nearly 750 veterans have completed the program and over half have been hired directly from the companies brought in during the sessions looking to hire new talent. Our Veterans Business Initiative is not a job fair, companies are interviewing and actually making hiring decisions on the spot. Companies realize that veterans offer value to their organizations by bringing unique skills and a work ethic second to none.
For our most recent career training class this year, Southwest provided complimentary round-trip airfare as a ‘thank you’ to each graduate of the program. Plus, Southwest Recruiters are present at the kick-off of the event and ready to help along the way. Southwest’s generosity as a company is inspiring to not only CFDC but to our participants as well.
“We recruit at the Veterans Business Initiative because we at Southwest Airlines cross all types of diversity. We stay connected and guide program participants on how they can fit into roles at Southwest. Our business is ever-changing; as it grows and expands we need to add to our diversity, and these hard-working veterans have a lot to offer, and we can help support them,” said Darnett Carey, Team Leader on Southwest Airlines’ Orlando Employment Team.
Bringing Lessons Learned to Southwest
In Spring 2020, the CFDC will launch its Disability Inclusion Education Program which will create a safe and open space where business professionals can have an open dialog about dispelling assumptions and biases toward people with disabilities to create an inclusive work environment.
Southwest is a People-first Company and is regarded as “a Company with a Heart,” so the People Department (Human Resources) jumped at the opportunity to join this effort. Southwest will be our first partner for this initiative. We will help Southwest share ideas, receive feedback, and develop training so that the Company’s Leaders know the best practices for accommodating cognitive disabilities.
“ Southwest Airlines strives to make a positive difference in the communities we serve and our partnership with the CFDC allows us to do just that,” said Alison Hoefler, Regional Leader of Community Outreach, Southwest Airlines. “We are committed to helping this unique organization continue its mission of helping people and this new education program has the potential to have a big impact on our Company.”
Helping our Society
The work we do every day helps connect and supports individuals to be contributing members of our society. Support and partnership from Companies like Southwest that really value diversity and inclusion at the core have a huge impact in helping the Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce fulfill its mission today and into the future.
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