WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Gas station and convenience retailer Wawa has about 20 locations on Florida's west coast that were impacted by Hurricane Ian. The company said all of them have not run out of gas and remain operational.
The west coast locations are getting support from workers from South Florida. The company is paying for rental cars, fuel and other transportation costs.
"We have about 150 associates that are driving back and forth, two-plus hours each day, from the east coast to the west coast to help support their peers or team members and communities," David Prevost, the company's director of store operations for Florida, said. "They go back and forth because there are no hotels that are open."
Prevost said his west coast employees might not realize it, but they need a break.
"They keep telling us, 'We're fine. We have this,' but we know in our hearts that they've been through a tremendous tragedy," Prevost said. "The things that they have to deal with their friends, their family, or just taking in what has happened to their community, and so all of these folks going over there are giving them that time to process."
Another way the company is triaging efforts impacted by Ian is setting up fuel lanes at some locations just for first responders.
"We work with the local township community police department and ambulance services to make sure that they have fuel and they can get out to assist in the community," Prevost said.
Wawa always provides free fountain sodas and coffee to police, but now also to first responders in areas impacted by Ian.
"Your linemen that are driving from New Jersey, your police, your firemen, your interest to volunteers, the Cajun Navy who is helping to rescue people off of Sanibel Island," Prevost said.
Additionally, the company has pledged a guaranteed $500,000 gift to Florida's Disaster Relief Fund.
On top of that, from Oct. 4-16, customers can visit any Wawa Store to add $1, $3 or $5 to their purchase to help the American Red Cross Hurricane Ian Disaster Relief Fund. The Wawa Foundation will be matching the first $250,000 in customer contributions to the campaign.
For Wawa customers on the west coast, where there is no internet and therefore no ability to accept debit or credit cards, employees have been passing out water and sandwiches while they wait in line for gas.
Wawa stores started in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic states but have been in Florida for more than 10 years.