How ToolBank USA Helps Improve Recovery and Community Preparedness with Trey Bearden



“It’s not just what happens in the immediate response… But also how we span the entire spectrum to be able to provide those necessary resources because it does take a long time to rebuild.” -Trey Bearden



Many people lost not just their homes and belongings during a disaster, but also the ability to continue working. On top of dealing with their own loss, many families find it difficult to afford the additional costs of repairs and rebuilding when something happens. And, sometimes, people just don’t have the tools to do some of the most basic tasks. There are those who were only able to save a few tools or none at all during the evacuation because of all the chaos. Indeed, tools and equipment can help improve the outcome of disaster recovery. 

Thankfully, there are organizations working to change this situation, such as ToolBank  USA. In this episode, Jennifer is joined by Toolbank USA’s Chief Program Officer, Trey Bearden. Tune in to learn more about the work they do, what services they offer, how your community can benefit from this organization’s resources, and what we can do to become better equipped and better prepared as individuals and as a community. 





  • 00:44: ToolBank Disaster Services
  • 11:31: Bridging the Gap— Limited Resources
  • 20:25: How to be a Resource
  • 29:21 Strategic Initiatives with the Highest Probability of Success
  • 40:14: What Organizations Are Needed
  • 49:49: The Small Role We All Can Play
  • 54:59: Allow Yourself to be Taken Cared of 



ToolBank Affiliates



Communities work hard during the rebuilding phase, but what about the tools and services that are needed in order for things to run smoothly? Tune in as @JenGrayThompson and Chief Program Officer Trey Bearden share how @ToolBankUSA can help communities improve their recovery and community preparedness. #Recover #Rebuild #Reimagine #NorthBay #podcast #wildfire #disaster #AfterTheFire #Season3 #HowToDisaster #ToolbankUSA #tools #resources #recovery #rebuilding #stretegicinitiatives #communitypreparedness 


04:02: “Partnerships and getting through this together is the only way through a very difficult landscape ahead of us.” -Jennifer Thompson

04:36: “Executing a simple idea takes a lot of talent, a lot of dedication, a lot of passion, and a lot of willingness to pivot and learn and adapt to what’s in front of you.” -Jennifer Thompson 

07:09: “I live by the motto of waiting to be asked to before we just impose ourselves into a community.” -Trey Bearden

11:34: “One of those disheartening things is to see how quickly the attention comes and how quickly the attention goes.” -Trey Bearden  

12:32: “You have very little resources and very little volunteers. It’s the community that has to pull each other up, right by their bootstraps. There are going to be resources, but it’s going to take ‘us’.” -Trey Bearden

15:34: “Stay in your lane. Do what you do and do it well. Because there are plenty of things that we can collectively do if we’re willing to work together.” -Trey Bearden 

19:44: “If you have an under-resourced community, they are not on equal footing for coming back. They’re just not, so they need partners.”  -Jennifer Thompson

26:06: “Being able to gather assessments from other partners on the ground gives you a different perspective of what’s happening. But it’s also good to have your own sets of eyes on the ground to be able to understand how best to utilize our resources and where best to position those resources in order to get the job done.” -Trey Bearden   

30:59: “You cannot wait for perfect. You have to aim for better.” -Jennifer Thompson

32:39: “People want to know how to help, they just don’t know where.” -Trey Bearden  

42:32: “We don’t do the volunteer piece, we equip those organizations that do the volunteering.”  -Trey Bearden

42:40: “What it takes is organizations that are not trying to do it all.” -Jennifer Thompson

48:11: “We all are better together than we are by ourselves.” -Trey Bearden 

48:46: “It’s a privilege to do work that feels profound.” -Jennifer Thompson

50:50: “Traditional disaster philanthropy has been based in immediacy, and not based on that long term. There are no bad intentions here. It’s just that you need philanthropy to last longer than the news cycle.” -Jennifer Thompson

51:57: “It’s not just what happens in the immediate response… But also how we span the entire spectrum to be able to provide those necessary resources because it does take a long time to rebuild.” -Trey Bearden 

58:20: “Allow yourself to be cared for, which is a hard thing for people who work in a disaster.” -Jennifer Thompson


Meet Trey:

Trey joined ToolBank USA as Chief Program Officer in July of 2018. Most recently, Trey served as the founding Executive Director of the Richmond Community ToolBank. The process of building a ToolBank from the ground up taught him that action creates clarity and that the answer is always no unless you ask! 

Connect with ToolBank USA: 



Jennifer Gray Thompson: Hi, my name is Jennifer Gray Thompson, and I am the CEO of After the Fire. Welcome to the podcast, How to Disaster, recover, rebuild and reimagine. In this podcast, we bring you the very best practices, best hearts and great ideas from other disaster affected communities. Thank you for joining us. 

Once again, welcome to the podcast, Trey Bearden of ToolBank USA, thank you for being here.

Trey Bearden: Thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here with you.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, I’m really excited because ToolBank USA is a national nonprofit, and you do some very cool work in the field of both disaster and resilience. So would you mind giving our audience an overview of ToolBank USA?

Trey Bearden: Absolutely. So ToolBank USA, we are a national nonprofit that loans tools, literally hand tools to community based organizations. So if your other nonprofit, a neighborhood association, civic association, faith community schools, anybody basically with charitable intent, we will loan you the tools. That’s what we are. That’s what we do. And we do it through two vehicles. One is we have our ToolBank network, and these are made up of our ToolBank affiliates. Primarily, these are located in major metropolitan areas around the country. We currently have eight, but we are growing them by the years. COVID kind of put a little pause on that, as I think it did with most of what we do. But these eight affiliates serve these metropolitan areas in Atlanta, Charlotte, Richmond, Virginia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix. And they operate basically a 10,000 square foot warehouse that serves these community based organizations in and around their communities. However, there are no geographic limitations as to where the tools can go. So if you’re an organization outside, let’s say Atlanta, if you’re an Alabama or you’re in South Carolina and you say, you know what, I got a big project coming up, I need tools. I need access to tools, I don’t have them. You can contact the Atlanta ToolBank, become a member as long as you meet the criteria, place your tour online, schedule your pickup, go pick up your tools, take them back to your project, and then bring them back to the Atlanta ToolBank. Typically, we loan those tools for three pennies on the dollar. 

And so a great example is, let’s say you walk into the Home Depot and you were to go buy a shovel that still would cost you $15, the ToolBank can loan that same shovel for 45 cents. So the idea now is you can equip 33 people, it would cost you to buy and equip only one person with the necessary tool. And then the other beauty is you don’t worry about storing them, repairing them, replacing them, you bring them back, the ToolBank does all that. And the next time you’re able to come back and get a different set of tools, because oftentimes, the projects that people do are different than what they did before. There may be some overlap. But the idea is, you have basically a hardware store at your disposal. And so that’s what our affiliate site is. And so that’s one of the things we do at ToolBank USA. 

And then of course, supporting that network and be able to provide the tool tracking platform and other resources to our affiliates. And on the other side of our business we do is called ToolBank Disaster Services. And instead of using a warehouse in a major metropolitan area, we actually use trailers. So between 18 to 53 foot trailers, we outfit with the necessary tools and we deploy those in the event of a disaster to those communities that have been impacted. So the weather, traditionally for us, there’s been wind and water. But we’re obviously excited about the opportunity to learn more about how we can partner and learn about fires, and how we might be able to play a pivotal role and be able to help build back more resilient communities.


“Partnerships and getting through this together is the only way through a very difficult landscape ahead of us.” -Jennifer Thompson


Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, obviously, I have a lot of opinions about how that could happen and things that we see a need for, and in another opportunity for us to possibly partner on some of those things. Because as we were discussing before we got on camera, really partnerships and getting through this together really is the only way through a very difficult landscape ahead of us on that. I think it was a hill this morning, somebody sent me an article that said that we were going to have mega fires over 60% of the planet into the next century. So that was a little bit depressing. But then I just got up and got dressed anyway. So I absolutely want to have that conversation. Can you give us a little bit of information about the history of ToolBank USA, because I really, really love the simplicity of the idea. But even executing a simple idea actually takes a lot of talent, and a lot of dedication, and a lot of passion, and a lot of willingness to pivot, learn and adapt to what’s in front of you. And we’ve never learned that more than we have during COVID. So would you mind giving us some of the history of the organization?


“Executing a simple idea takes a lot of talent, a lot of dedication, a lot of passion, and a lot of willingness to pivot and learn and adapt to what’s in front of you.” -Jennifer Thompson 


Trey Bearden: Sure. So we started the actual as of last year, the Atlanta ToolBank was kind of what we’re all been based off of. Started about 30 years ago. There was a group of people in the Greater Atlanta area that identified low income senior adult housing that they wanted to help fix up their homes. These people didn’t have the skill sets that means to be able to do the home repair. And so these people just started on a regular basis helping these folks out. And what they quickly became known for was not only this group that was engaged and passionate about revitalizing and building back these folks at home as they had a lot of tools. And so people started coming to them and saying, hey, can we borrow your tools? It was almost by default that they kind of created this thing that we now call ToolBank. 

And so the Atlanta ToolBank, there were a couple of different names before that, but it became known as the Atlanta Community ToolBank. And wasn’t till about mid 2000s, around 2008, the then Executive Director of the Atlanta ToolBank got the idea of, hey, I’m thinking about replicating this idea, like, how do I bring this to more people, to more communities across the country? Because he had those groups coming to him from South Carolina, and Alabama, in different places saying, can I borrow your tools? And he was like, no geographic limitations. So it got the wheels turning, what could this look like? How could we replicate it? How could we build this out to a national program? 

And so in 2008, he started what’s called ToolBank USA. And so that was the premise behind it is launching these new affiliates, building this model that could be transferable into different markets. And so that started probably about 2010 to 2011, we opened our Charlotte community ToolBank. And then obviously, went through with the rest of the names that I mentioned for you pretty much over the next five years after that. The disaster program, we launched in 2014, and we really began with a 153 foot trailer. And it was just kind of like, let’s see what this looks like? And we started as a response organization. And so it was the traditional way we approached it when a disaster hit a community. And different partners would go out into the field and start making assessments, and they will be gathering assessments. ToolBank always kind of lives by the motto of waiting to be asked before we just impose ourselves into a community.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Amen to that.

Trey Bearden: So by doing so, we were just gathering assessments and listening to what other people have, and then positioning ourselves alongside, typically one of our national partners, but that basically just gave us access to the ground. And then once on the ground, we began just reaching out, building brands, telling people about who we are. Because if you weren’t a national person or part of state VOADs, or national VOAD, you’ve probably never heard it’s a link. And so just getting on the ground, connecting with all these different local nonprofits, and even other regional and national nonprofits who may not have heard of us, and just tell them about ToolBank, here’s the resource, here’s what we can provide for you. I guess the one thing I didn’t say at the outset is, in the disasters, we loan the tools free of charge. So there literally is no cost to you. And so that started and we would deploy anywhere between 2 and 12 weeks on average. Really, it was just too, however long our partners were on the ground, that’s how long we would stay. And so you fast forward to about Hurricane Harvey, with the magnitude of what happened along the coast of Texas. And at the same time, Maria in Puerto Rico and Irma that came up in Florida, and we kind of were hit on multiple fronts.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: And for those who are not familiar, or if the last two years feel like they’ve taken 10 years, we’re talking 2017, late summer fall, just for reference.

Trey Bearden: When we started looking at that, it started to pose the opportunity for us to be able to say, how do we strategically look at what we do? And how can we be more of a long term solution and help build back more resilient and more sustainable communities? One of my mottos is, how do you bring about hope to people? And it’s great to be there in the initial outset. And obviously, you’re in there in the immediate aftermath. But then, how do you stay and become embedded in the community, and really be seen as someone who’s invested and willing to spend the time, the money and the energy to engage and become truly part of the community. And so that’s what we started to do with Hurricane Harvey. And then we kind of pivoted when we got to Michael, I guess I’ll pause there for a second, you might want to ask.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, actually, I’d love to talk about Michael because FEMA actually flew me out to address professionals in the disaster field about 10 months post disaster. That was a fascinating experience, because our disasters, even though they were unprecedented for wildfire, we were cleaned up 10 to 12 months post disaster. I was in hurricane Michael 10 months post disaster and I was turning to my colleagues and saying, I don’t understand why this isn’t clean? Like this is very confusing too, and so we can talk about that. But I do want to put a pin in one thing that you talked about, which is long term. It’s not that common to commitment to long term to really saying to the community, no, we’re going to walk this out with you, and we’re going to be here for you a year from now, two years from now, three years from now as long as you want us to be invested in your community, and it has to be a mutual thing. So you’re not just bringing hope, but you’re also looking to bring long term resilience, and you’re literally, like, we give people non tangible tools, you’re literally giving people tools to rebuild their community which really takes, it can take 3 years, 5 years, 10 years never. And so without those really external partners sort of investing in local leadership, local design is an incredibly difficult process to do. And if you’re an under-resourced community, never is more probable than 7 to 10 years, which is the average. So I just want to commend you for also saying, like you’re bringing hope. 

And there is that moment, like about a year after a disaster where the community turns around and they’re like, now it’s even shorter because we have so many, and they’re like, wait a minute, where is everybody? Where’s all that love in the air? It seems to be gone. And now I really need help, because the first year after a disaster, in our case, we call it fire brain where people are just so traumatized that they need a minute before they can really pick up their lives. And so I just want to commend you and ToolBank USA for your approach in that. And now, you can go to Michael, so thank you.


“One of those disheartening things is to see how quickly the attention comes and how quickly the attention goes.” -Trey Bearden


Trey Bearden: Absolutely. And I guess for me, one of those things where disheartening things for me is to see how quickly the attention comes and how quickly the attention goes. Because if it’s not front page center of the news, for whatever it may be happening when the disaster happens, one of the things that I think was a blessing for the folks of Houston was that it was the third or fourth largest country or city in the country. And so when it got hit, it got a lot of attention because of the size of it. But then you go a year later, you look at Florence that hit eastern North Carolina, very impoverished, very rural. And the biggest city was Wilmington, and it didn’t hit directly in the Wilmington. It went from like a Cat 3 to a Cat 1, the severity. But because of what was happening in the news cycle, it was like a blip on the radar, and it was gone. And it didn’t impact necessarily as many people. And so you have very little resources, very little volunteers. And so what you realize is, the community that has to pull each other up by their bootstraps. And it’s got to be neighbor to neighbor looking at each other and saying, okay, what are we going to do? They’re going to be resources, but it’s going to take us. And so how can someone, and that’s kind of where I look to step into that gap when I came into this role. ToolBank was, okay, how can we stand in those gaps? And how can we be that bridge to be able to help people to build back and to provide them the simple things like, the simple tangible things of a tool, but yet so powerful. Because at the end of the day, they’ve lost their house, but they’ve also lost all their tools. So how do you begin to start? So I just wanted to put that in there as part of like, just the overall philosophy before I jumped in Michael.


“You have very little resources and very little volunteers. It’s the community that has to pull each other up, right by their bootstraps. There are going to be resources, but it’s going to take ‘us’.” -Trey Bearden


Jennifer Gray Thompson: Stay in there for just a moment, because one of the big issues that we all face in disasters, everyone that rushes in sort of crowds into the same corner very often, sometimes that’s because it’s easier to chase the funding than the mission, or they can’t afford to chase the mission over the funding. So we want philanthropy, which I really believe they’re starting to do over the past two years to really look more at mission rather than, where’s the safe and comfortable place to put our money? But also that concept of gaps. We were born of the 2017 wildfires in the North Bay, and our number one job was, where do we fill a gap? We can’t afford to duplicate this disaster. Almost 9000 structures over 24 days and 43 lives, and it was just like a bomb went off. So how on earth, I don’t want to rush into the same corner as other people because then, we’re not going to get the job done. So I don’t want to skip over though your philosophy about filling gaps, because that actually takes a certain, it’s a philosophy, and it’s about stepping back and allowing the community to sort of look at what they actually need. And then we always say, what do you need? And how can we help? That’s what I’m feeling back from you, as opposed to, there are many good people in this space, but there are people who rush in and they’re like, I know everything. I’m a hero. I’m going to save you. Listen to me, top down, not bottom up, not looking for gaps, but looking for kudos and capes. And we are like super anti that. And I’m hearing from you like that sort of respect for what happened in this community, so I really want to applaud you for that and not skip over it.


“Stay in your lane. Do what you do and do it well. Because there are plenty of things that we can collectively do if we’re willing to work together.” -Trey Bearden


Trey Bearden: Yeah, absolutely. Because to me, that’s what it’s about. It’s coming alongside those people, because they’re the ones that lived a disaster. They’re the ones that have experienced it. They’re the ones that their lives have been upended. And so who better to know what is needed than they do? And so to me, it’s like, here’s a resource, and here’s something that we can bring to you and then work alongside you. Because I do agree, I think oftentimes, especially in response organizations, some people I know, that’s what they do, and they do it well. And all for organizations that stay in your lane, do what you do and do it well. Because I think there are plenty of things that we can, collectively, we’re able to do it all if we’re willing to work together. But to your point, I think there are organizations that swoop in and swoop out as the money and the media go. And so you’re a drain on those resources. Because now, you’ve just taken them, temporarily injected it into the community, but then you’ve quickly taken some of it out. Because now, you’re gone. 

And so to me, each and everybody does their own thing. But again, how do you just come in and kind of come alongside those folks? And so that’s really, as Hurricane Michael came through across the Panhandle, we deployed within a couple of like a week or two of it having come through, we were on the ground, we were next to Team Rubicon positioned, and we started a Mariana then we ended up in Panama City, and we were there for six weeks on the ground out of a trailer. And that was our response period. And then what we did was, we just pulled Team Rubicon demobilized six months later, and we pulled our trailer out, but we left resources on the ground. And we had a godsend of a volunteer who had got connected, utilized us, lived in the Panama City Beach area, and was willing to come over to this makeshift warehouse and be able to get tools and get them out to the groups in the community, and or our staff person from Atlanta would drive down and make sure tools got out to the community. So we were still present. 

And then what we did was, we just began to just really understand where the need is, who’s doing what, and then identifying where we can set up a more long term presence. And so we’re able to connect with Catholic Charities of North Florida. They had a 3000 square foot thrift store that we’re not going to like to reestablish. They said: “We’ll loan you the space.” And so finding opportunities like that and just collaborations where, okay, you got something, we got something, how do we come together? How do we leverage it? And I can sit here and tell you right now that here we are, we still operate Panama City to this day, and are still providing tools to that community, because we understand that it’s not a short term fix. And now, it’s a small ToolBank, but it serves the need. And one of the beautiful things about it is the gentleman who ran that operation as a volunteer is now actually our ToolBank Disaster Services Manager and is full time on our staff, his name is Bill Hess. He is a godsend and a guy that now we deploy him. He’s the one that deployed to Ida to the tornadoes in Kentucky, and he’s just been a tremendous asset to our team. But I will say that we took that model, and that’s really where we began to lay the groundwork. And really pilot as I would say, that idea of going from response to long term recovery, and really strategically thinking about what does that looks like, and how can we replicate that going forward and other disasters.


“If you have an under-resourced community, they are not on equal footing for coming back. They’re just not, so they need partners.”  -Jennifer Thompson


Jennifer Gray Thompson: I like that a lot. And also, for those of you who don’t know who are listening, Panama City is particularly, Hurricane Michael disproportionately affected people who were not well resourced to were 70% renters in Bay County, a lot of affordable housing, so a lot of work to be done there, and they didn’t get a lot of donations, they got about a million dollars of donations. Because for me, people have to have resources, you need to have either a strong corporate presence like you did in Houston, a lot of corporations are based there, so you’re going to get more money flowing in. Or where I live in Sonoma, many people have vacationed here. So they have an emotional connection. In Panama City, most people who vacation there, it’s very common for them to come. They call it a Florabama because a lot of people from the South do, but it’s a very affordable beach vacation for your average person. But your average person doesn’t necessarily have disposable income to flood them with donations. And so I was amazed by how much help they needed, and they really deserved a lot of help. And so I’m glad that you’re highlighting in particular that community because if you haven’t under-resourced the community again, I can’t say it enough, like they are not on equal footing for coming back. They’re just not, so they need partners like you who are also respectful, and that you have somebody local. Like anybody who’s looking at being in the space of disaster, I love that you have a local person who is the champion for your organization, because we always say, hey, who’s going to be on your soccer fields and in your schools in 10 years? Like it’s going to be the locals who do that. So it’s not our job or our place really to rush in, and really to even take the lead on now. How do we help that local person do their job? Or do they work for their community? So I commend you a lot.

Trey Bearden: Well, thank you. And now, I’ll make the pivot to hurricane Ida, because that’s kind of where we are with. Well, let me backup. Actually, because one of the things that I think was transformational in our approach as well was, obviously, as we went through the pandemic and the response, especially in late 2020 with the hurricane season, it was a very difficult place. Because obviously, there was no vaccine. Mother Nature doesn’t know any different and just keeps on doing her thing. And so it really posed the question to us is, okay, how are we going to position ourselves? How are we going to respond? How are we going to be a resource? And obviously, I mean, sadly, there were very few volunteers that would go out. And you probably remember, there were three pretty sizable hurricanes that swept through Louisiana that year, and we were on the ground. But typically, we’re able to bunk and do those logistical things like housing, meals and those things with our partners on the ground, they do take great care of us. Because typically, we roll in with one staff person, and that’s it. I mean, we’re lean machines.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Us too. I can totally relate to that.

Trey Bearden: So they always think, I mean, different partners take great care of us. But in times of COVID, everybody had to change the protocol. And it was just like, now, we can’t allow other people to come into our camps, or into our lodging, or feeding just because of where we found ourselves. And so we really had to strategically think, what’s the best thing for us to do? And it’s something as simple as, I’m gonna to say our solution is proved to be very transformational and how we respond since then was, we went out and bought a camper.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I’m just resetting, I’m just gonna laugh, because I got into a camper too. And you and I tried to get my board to buy one and they’re like, just rent. So go ahead. I’m hoping my board members hear this. Please tell us all about your camper. I’m so jealous, I’m so sorry.

Trey Bearden: Well, I basically told my, I went to the CEO and said, here’s my solution. I was like, we need to buy a camper. Okay, what’s going to cost? Did the price thing put it out to the executive committee? Said, here’s what needs to take. And myself and the CEO made the initial donation, and we challenged our board to match it. And we had a pretty substantial amount of board members match us, but we were able to buy the camper. And so what that allowed us to do was to become completely self contained and self sustained.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Okay, so I’m so excited to hear about your camper, because that’s what we did in COVID. My husband drove me around for 10 days to newly fire affected communities with our English Mastiff named Gigi, and I tried to get my board to consider the same thing, and they haven’t said yes yet. But eventually, maybe. In the meantime, before you get to that, we’re going to take a commercial break, and we will be right back.

Once again, thank you for joining us. Our guest today is Trey Bearden, and he’s the CEO of ToolBank USA. And he was just about to tell us about his new trailer that he got in the middle of COVID in order to perform their services safely. So take it away.

Trey Bearden: Well, yeah. So yeah, during the pandemic, obviously pivoting to how we best can still respond safely to communities impacted by disasters. So it came with the idea, got Board approval, didn’t take much arm twisting, so I’m hoping that you’re able to do, maybe I can help a little bit, twist some arms and get you that camper. But I will say for us, it’s been transformational because what it’s allowed us to do is become completely self contained and self sustained. So now, as we begin to roll into disasters, we’re able to tell people that we can bring all our own gas, our own water, our own food, and we have our own lodging. So therefore, we’re not a tax, we’re not a burden to the system. Because oftentimes, groups are coming in and resources are so scarce. Lack of gas, lack of power, lack of water, all these things, and then you become attack to the system. And so the ideas for how do we come in? How do we provide resource? How to provide those initial set of tools without being an inconvenience or a burden to the community? And so something that seemed so simple has become so powerful of literally a tool in our arsenal. And it never played out more true than this year. 


“Being able to gather assessments from other partners on the ground gives you a different perspective of what’s happening. But it’s also good to have your own sets of eyes on the ground to be able to understand how best to utilize our resources and where best to position those resources in order to get the job done.” -Trey Bearden


Because when Hurricane Ida came through, we were on the ground within a week. And we did so through partnership within BOE/D and the local emergency management context on the ground to let them know who, this is we got everything we need. This is our plan. And they were fully on board and supportive and okay with us going ahead and coming in, and partnering alongside some of our national nonprofits. And so what it allowed us to do is to get on the ground, bring that initial equipment of chainsaws and PPE in any kind of debris, clearing tools. But also get on the ground, start building brands, and really assessing where do we need to put our resources. Because if we go back to what we talked about before of only being able to gather assessments from other partners on the ground, we’re dependent on their folks. And we’re still utilizing that information, because that’s valuable information, and it gives you a different perspective of what’s happening. But it’s also good to have your own sets of eyes on the ground to be able to really understand, okay, how best to utilize our resources? Where is the best to position those resources in order to get the job done? 

And so what it allowed us to do was to put resources up in Hammond, and then we went down to Houma and (inaudible), and everything, it is almost like we had a triangle around that South East region part of Louisiana. Pretty much all around New Orleans, really, but more on the rural parts of New Orleans. Because thankfully, as we all know that the Levees held in New Orleans for the most part had the infrastructure that other than some lack of electricity. They didn’t get hit as hard as the outlying areas, but that camper has played a pivotal role in our ability to respond, and being able to be on the ground in a more timely effective manner to start being addressed the need to get our resources on to the community.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: But I think you just gave me an even better reason. It was really clear to me, just last summer, we had the Dixie Fire in Greenville and burned down. And I would usually wouldn’t come in four days after the disaster. But that’s when I got the call. And then I was there like three days after I got the call four days later after burn down. And I said: “I’m not really much help to you at this point.” But they said: “What we really need is hope. And so would you mind coming?” And I was like, okay, I will come. And the person wanted to kind of, and they’re like, and I said: “No, I’m not going to roll in with a media person.” But then the local people, they wanted the media person. So I was like, okay, then we will do that. But there was no place for me to say, because everything in a multi multi-node, 100 mile radius was filled with fire survivors or people who were first responders. It’s not appropriate for me to take up that space. I totally agree. So you do that. So I’ve done the whole thing round trip twice now, but that’s four hours each way. And so in one day, I just said, that would be far less that you’ve given me the argument. I’m overly excited. It was really funny. Because during COVID, we’re all at home. That’s right. That’s why we started this podcast, brought home. And then every time Gander or Marcus Lemonis, he would like to be giving trailers away, and I was just like, me, me, me, me, me, me, me.

Trey Bearden: I was one, I tried. I tried.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Did you try too? Because I had like, I was like embarrassed almost. I felt like I was begging to like, please, please. And he’s giving them away to military vets. I’m like, I have to just stop saying me, me, me. But that’s what I really, I would have given it to the organization. And if Marcus Lemonis has ever heard this, I’m still open to that possibility. Just so you know.

Trey Bearden: I am too. They actually responded to a tweet and I was like, holy smokes, I don’t tweet. I literally do not tweet. So for whatever reason I was there, I saw it, I tweeted at them, and then they responded back to me. I’m like, holy smokes. And then I got engaged. And then I was like, I got my hopes up. I was all excited. And then I was like, oh, I get it. They’re doing great things. They’re giving them away. Yeah.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: There’s no complaint. We’re not complaining. We’re just also like, we’re cool too.

Trey Bearden: Correct. We actually are looking to add a potential toy hauler. Kind of we’re thinking for our next one, because we would love to be able to have the back end, kind of be like an office/operate from there, and put tools. Because that is we want to roll in with chainsaws, or PPE, log rollers, like different things that people need in the initial response before you get to really the McKinney getting the hand tools, the rebuild tools, whatever it may be, and be able to have that separate from the living quarters. And so as we think strategically, my thing is always, one of the things I love, Simon Sinek said that just kind of rings true for me when I think about strategic initiatives and how to accomplish them. He says: “What’s the fastest simplest thing you can do with the highest probability of success, do that.” And then just keep iterating off of that. And what he says is you go past your perceived vision to unimagined vision. And so it’s just, do it quick. Do what we know we can be successful at rather than, sometimes, we aim for this very pie in the sky vision and we never get there. Or it doesn’t look like what it did when we get somewhere, it’s not what we originally envisioned. And so his point is you spend all his time and resources to take it back to what you thought it originally was, rather than, let’s just do this. And just see how it keeps iterating on itself. And it’s just something that was so simple in one line, it just rings true to me, and I just try to live that piece out too in what we do.


“You cannot wait for perfect. You have to aim for better.” -Jennifer Thompson


Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think that’s really important, though, in all life. But especially in a disaster that you cannot wait for perfect, and we have this really great local supervisor here who talks about it a lot. Like, you have to aim for better. And if we can just do better, if you can, even in your own iterations of what you’re doing, you’re just always aiming for better and that to not let in these parts of cliche, but not let perfection be the enemy of progress. Just to keep like, okay, what need can we fill in when we get there, we might learn of another need that we can also fill without going into somebody else’s lane. Something that they’re asking for that’s like within a reasonable area of something we can achieve. Anyway, I really love that. And I just want to say right on because that’s just yes. That’s all, just yes. Yes, for me there.


 “I live by the motto of waiting to be asked to before we just impose ourselves into a community.” -Trey Bearden


Trey Bearden: I was gonna say back to the Marcus thing or just things in general. One of my mottos, and it’s funny that my kids who just, they get tired of me here and say this is, I live by the motto, and the answer is no, unless you ask. So I have no shame in asking anyone for anything because I truly believe I was like, I’m not asking for you. I get it. I work for an organization that I may be asking you to make a donation to. And yes, I understand. Just like you would, that directly benefits me because I’m on payroll here. But the idea is, I’m doing something and a part of something that is that I truly believe in and is making a difference in the community and then the greater society. And I would love just to be able to offer you the opportunity to be a part of something because I live by this other thing of, I believe in Nate and every one of us is the desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And so how do we open those doors? How do we open those opportunities? And where do we let people kind of intersect in those? And especially in disasters, people want to know how to help, they just don’t know where and they’re just like, I don’t have time to Google, I don’t have time to do all this. And so the easy thing is to give the money to these big names. Sometimes, these big name nonprofits, but it’s like, here are the things that these other smaller groups are doing. So how do you just remove the obstacles, the impediments, whatever it may be to let somebody intersect and be a part of something bigger than themselves?


“People want to know how to help, they just don’t know where.” -Trey Bearden


Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think that so much of the work that we do is based in, and this sounds very, I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious, but there’s such a basis of humanity in it of meeting people exactly where they’re at, at their most vulnerable moment and saying, hey, I hear you and I see you, and we’re going to carry, we’ll help carry you during this time. But we know you’re strong enough to do this, and you just need a little bit of help between here and there. And here’s some practical tools, advice, support, and really a resource for you to build as you build your own capacity and work through your own trauma. And disaster is usually physically terrifying. There’s a lot of loss and trauma associated with it. But in my experience, it’s like a sweet spot of humanity as well where people are sort of stripped bare of their, it doesn’t matter whether your politics, it doesn’t really or shouldn’t anyway, shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter your income, it shouldn’t. It does eventually, but people are just sort of human at that moment. I really crave that. I hear so much of that in what you’re saying, and in your approach. I really want to applaud you for that because I love working with people like you. So I just want to note that.

Trey Bearden: Well, thank you. I look forward to the opportunity working more alongside you.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Let’s pivot there. So let’s talk about that. So we changed to a more of a national organization in response to this era of mega fires. We honestly thought in 2017 when our fires came through CAL FIRE and every fire agency in the world was like, whoa, never seen that before. That’s weird that you can have a football field every few seconds go up in flames, houses that were two or three storeys go be demolished and blow up within three to five minutes, and it just moved on and on. We didn’t understand about ember cast. We thought that a we didn’t know that a mega fire would get to a freeway, a six lane freeway and decide to take the overpass. We didn’t know that it made it (inaudible). We’d never really seen a mega fire before, and we lost almost 9000 structures in a burn for 24 days, and it was many fires. A lot of people think of one fire, the Tubbs fire, but we have 11 fires across four counties that broke out that night with high winds, 90 mile an hour winds. And where I live in Sonoma Valley, we were surrounded by encroaching fires for 10 days, and it was very, very traumatic. Let’s get real. 

But one of the things that I’ve been doing this work nonstop since October 8 2017, I’m always on a learning curve with everybody. We thought we’re gonna be like the Kardashians of disaster. We totally weren’t because the Thomas Fire was a month later that ended up being larger, but not more destructive. And then 13 months later, we were actually breaking ground on this project for the coffee, anyway, half a million dollar project to replace this wall around a neighborhood. And we looked up in the sky and we saw this huge plume of smoke, which was the Camp Fire. And to understand that Paradise is three hours away from us, so that’s how big that plume of smoke was. So we started working in Paradise, and in the Woolsey Fire which also broke out the same day in Malibu. And ever since then, every time there’s been a major fire with the exception of Redding, we’ve gone there. 

And then in 2020, it was such a horrendous wildfire season that we started working in Oregon. So we’re in southern and central Oregon, and every fire in California since 2017, we have been a part of it. So we’re always on a learning curve. And then last week, we did our first deployment to Colorado to the Marshal Fire. And we took five people in our delegation, suburban wildfire survivors, because suburban is different from super rural or frontier. And so I am curious, I do want to bring people into this space who are really experienced disaster leaders who I think have, obviously, Team Rubicon had a presence in our community immediately. So they sort of understood about taking out trees and helping people. I think they’ve certainly learned their way through this a little bit with ToolBank USA. It’s an interesting thing because I’ve heard from other national nonprofits who are like, we can’t figure out how to get stickiness in the community and to find a presence. And what I say to them is, because there’s nothing left to do, and nothing left. There’s no trees, it looks all orange, and ash, and brown, and chemicals, and burned out cars. Nothing looks the same markers that I’ve seen my whole life. I can be on a road and not recognize it at all. It’s absolutely a leveling. And so what people need is different, but they still need things, and they need sifters, for example. And it’s good, there are organizations that bring sifters, but they need gloves. And this is just for the first round in Colorado, they have basements and so getting in there and being able to sift in there, that means they’re gonna be ladders. It’s just a little, so the basement thing is new to us, and it’s a suburban basement issue. I don’t know what that’s going to be like, because they’re gonna have to pull it. You can’t keep your foundation after a mega fire burns too hot. That’s not salvageable. 

And then for the longer rebuild, I think we have organizations like Mennonite Disaster Services that are very well respected here that are very well known here. But there’s a lack of capacity to meet all of the needs, but something like ToolBank USA that will be happy to connect you with leaders and for different types of wildfire communities for you to say, what did you want, like immediately, and what did you need six months later? Because they’re not going to be the same at all. There’s nothing left to muck, but it’s definitely PPE. Wildfire, I don’t know if you’ve walked through a wildfire area, but it’s really oily, the ash and it ruins your shoes, which I learned the hard way. So I wear special boots when I do that. So there are just certain things that they need, and I would love to connect you with that. You can hear from them, but there’s also, in these super rural areas like the Dixie Fire in Greenville and the Caldor Fire, which is 70% uninsured for grizzly flats. Not under insured, but absolutely no insurance, and no waiting back, and FEMA has denied them individual assistance and housing missions based upon the wealth of the county even though that’s not true for the affected community. I love FEMA, but I don’t agree with that.

Trey Bearden: Agreed.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah. It’s unkind. I don’t think they need to be unkind, but it means that the policy has to actually follow the need and what’s really happening here in these mega fires. They’re going to need a lot of help to rebuild and they’re going to have to do a lot of dependence on volunteer rebuilding. And that means that those that to build their own capacity for a nonprofit to do that, they’re gonna need you. I would love to connect you with those communities because what you do is, it’s a very simple idea that it’s actually difficult to execute well, but you’re doing it well. So that’s a very long monologue in my TED Talk on that is over.


“We don’t do the volunteer piece, we equip those organizations that do the volunteering.”  -Trey Bearden


Trey Bearden: Well, thank you, I appreciate that. That’s actually very informative, because I and our team know very little about fires. And just to be upfront, but the way I look at it is, it just provides so much learning opportunity because I’m the guy that just says, I don’t know what I don’t know. And I’m not gonna claim to know it, right? But what I am willing to do is to say, I would love to just be able to have conversations to come, sit down, talk and to learn from what you guys have discovered, what you’ve learned, what you’ve experienced, and then be able to really understand what are those needs in those immediate aftermath. Because of some conversations with a professional firefighter, there’s a totally different approach from what they’d give me in a very small context. But just to be able to just lean in, and just listen, and to learn, and to educate ourselves to say, okay, here are the tools that we need. We did respond to Gatlinburg, that was, I don’t know the year, it was prior to my being in the role that I’m currently in, but there are some fires. And so we do have some sifters and some things like that, but really understanding what are the tools that are necessary? What does it look like in those stages? Because just like we do with wind and water, it’s a response, and then the tools change over to a rebuild. And so what are those response tools that are needed? And then how do you make that pivot? And then to me, I always start to think you guys have an infrastructure, and a community, and kind of a culture that you’re building out there. Like the furthest West, we go right now for an affiliate is Phoenix. But what would it look to drop a ToolBank somewhere in that area potentially. Of course, I’m just talking out loud. But what does it look like to find a location that we can call like a hub, but a ToolBank with some resources, put some small enclosed trailers that think can go out to these more remote areas of these communities to help with the rebuild, to equip to, empower the volunteers, long term to be able to, obviously, build back whatever it is that the community is trying to accomplish. How can we play our part in that? Because to your point, we don’t do the volunteer piece. We just equip those organizations that do the volunteering.


“What it takes is organizations that are not trying to do it all.” -Jennifer Thompson


Jennifer Gray Thompson: But that’s actually what it takes. You need organizations that are not trying to do it all. And I think that that’s where we actually go wrong in this business is organizations that try to elbow out everybody else. And they’re like, oh, no, no, no new ideas. And I got this in any vast majority of people are not like that, but they’re just enough oriented people. It’s really people more than organizations who were like, no, I got all. I know everything there is to know, and I’m going to fill all of these gaps. And with a vulnerable community, they’re likely to believe that in the beginning because it’s easier to look to one savior than it is to say, to really review the reality of it, which is, it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be long, and it’s going to take a lot of you, and you’re gonna make mistakes. Everybody does. You’re gonna have to have grace for the person in front of you who’s also in trauma. But how can we actually puzzle piece this together in a matrix of care and ecosystem to get you to the other side? 

One thing before I forget, I want to make sure, I say is that there’s a huge need in all wildfire communities to put sheds on parcels after they have been burned. People come in, like if people have personal tools and they want to work on their land, they get stolen all the time. And so one of the things we did after our fires and other organizations is that we donated the cost for sheds on properties so people could hold their sifters there, so they’re not carrying them around in their car, because all that stuff is super toxic. And that’s for this first stage. And how do you sheds, or if you guys had a relationship with tough sheds or something, you could actually immediately have a relationship with people on the ground and meet them exactly where they’re at. So that’s one of the ideas I would have, for sure, just want to say. So I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind, because I know that we are coming to the top of our hour, but could you talk to us about how you personally got involved in disaster because I always like, somebody’s interested or like, how did this come into your life?

Trey Bearden: Well, that’s kind of interesting. I guess I want to go back to before I came to ToolBank. A buddy and I, we actually were ministers in a local church, ironically enough, and working with students and taking students to different places. We ended up in Moore, Oklahoma. You may remember after that because I am at F5, that blew through Moore, Oklahoma in 2013. We took our students out there, and just saw firsthand the devastation and all that happened. I’ve always come from just a place of giving back and what can I do for other people. But seeing something like that, and being involved in something like that just made myself start asking the question, where am I best suited with my gifts and my talents to serve the community? And so shortly after that, I just started exploring what are my options, and started looking around, and came across ToolBank. I stumbled upon it on just a local, I live in Richmond, Virginia. So it’s just a local nonprofit site, like what’s this thing called ToolBank? And I said, I’ve been on tons of projects where I’m having, when I was in Oklahoma, I didn’t buy tools, donate them to the organization when I left because I’m like, they didn’t have it in a group of people, there weren’t enough tools. That happened to me countless times. And so I saw this, I’m like, man, this is a cool idea. Come to find out I hadn’t started yet in Richmond. And so I threw my name in the hat, followed the bouncing ball, and I became the Executive Director, actually was able to help build the Richmond affiliate. 

And then in 2018, we transitioned with our CEO, transitioned out and a new one came in. And she had been the previous Executive Director of our Atlanta ToolBank. And so she and I had conversations about what it’d be for me to serve in this role and oversee our disaster program. So really, just kind of came in and just started thinking, what this whole conversation has been about? How do we just help restore hope and come alongside communities? How can I use the gifts, the talents, the passion that I have to be an advocate, but also to build brand awareness, get the necessary tools into the hands of volunteers. I mean, we have great partners, Stanley, Black+Decker, UPS, the Home Depot, just to name a few. What I love is that, and I tell my kids all the time is, I get to wake up and do something that I love to do, and go into work isn’t like, don’t get me wrong, there’s times when you get up and you’re just frustrated by whatever. We all have those moments.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Of course.


“We all are better together than we are by ourselves.” -Trey Bearden


Trey Bearden: But generally speaking, it’s like, I get up and I love what I do. I love the opportunity to know that what we do, and collectively, what we’re all doing is making an impact on people’s lives. And that at the end, that it matters. I tell my kids, it pays the bills that provides the lifestyle we have, but there’s so much more than the financial gain from it. Or lack thereof, it’s more of helping, again, to restore that hope and provide people that sense of you’re not alone. Like I say, we’re helping our neighbors, whether that neighbor is like literally next door to me, or that neighbor is on the other side of the country for me, but you’re still my neighbor. And so how do we come alongside each other and treat each other like neighbors, and invest in each other, and know that we all are better together than we are by ourselves. And so that’s just kind of the mantra that drives me, and it’s put me in the place that I am. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity that I have. And that I say that to people, it’s like, I get paid to do this. You know what I mean? I don’t mean to sound it in a bad way, but  to be able to live out my passion, and in the ability to do what I do. I came thinking necessary the word, I’m using not loss for words.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Like a profound connection. It’s not everybody, it’s a privilege to do work that feels profound, a lot of people can’t do it, or their lives are different, or they don’t want to do it. And that’s totally fine. But I consider it a privilege to do work that is this profound, and it’s very interesting, it’s very moving. I’m actually not religious, but I do believe that God isn’t the space between us, and it’s how we fill up that space, and how we honor other people and have respect for nature. Because boy, she’s coming for us. So I think it’s pretty clear what you’re trying to say. I also like the fact that I would like to build strong relationships with partners like you who I really, that’s the approach that I want to affiliate After the Fire USA with because I do think we are to set a tone. And the tone is about that sort of a service based support as opposed to heroics, it’s a very different approach, and we are going to have increasing challenges as the years pass. So we’re going to. This is the deal, unfortunately.

Trey Bearden: And the very important thing is, obviously, disasters are becoming more frequent and of greater size. I mean, the magnitude of them is so much larger, and the destruction of them is so much larger. I mean, the frequency. And I mean it. The warming of the planet, all those things that are playing a pivotal role in this, and how do we address that? And how do we move forward? But yes, to kind of put a bow on is just working alongside people who are just saying, here’s the part. Here’s the small part that we each can play. Or for us is like, here’s the small part that we can play, like we understand, we’re just one piece of that pie, but it’s going to take the whole pie, and it’s gonna take a while. It doesn’t get built back in the day, and it doesn’t get built back in a year or two years in essence. I mean, it’s a lifetime if you really want to look at it.


“Traditional disaster philanthropy has been based in immediacy, and not based on that long term. There are no bad intentions here. It’s just that you need philanthropy to last longer than the news cycle.” -Jennifer Thompson


Jennifer Gray Thompson: But you want funders to understand that too, because traditional disaster philanthropy has been very immediate based in immediacy, and sort of that long term. And there’s no bad intentions here. It’s not that at all. It’s just that you need philanthropy to last longer than the news cycle. And you need the news cycle to also come back and check on it. Check on that disaster a year later. And we’d also like them to focus on areas that built in resilient ways that allowed them to mitigate the effects of disaster to like, we’re looking for success stories at the same time as in our case. Like wildland management, how we build homes, those sorts of things. But we also want stories of resiliency. I’m always telling news reporters, because I firmly believe that they are a part of the recovery, that they are the storytellers. And it’s very important that they stay in the story with the people who are actually undergoing the event. So feel strong.


“It’s not just what happens in the immediate response… But also how we span the entire spectrum to be able to provide those necessary resources because it does take a long time to rebuild.” -Trey Bearden


Trey Bearden: Absolutely.Your words are just ringing in my ears with the whole idea of talking to funders and trying to, I don’t want to say educate, but like just continuing to sound that whole idea of, it’s not just what happens in the immediate response. And I can sit here and say, at least for us, we’ve experienced. They’re seeing that, they’re beginning to change. They’re beginning to say, okay, let’s allocate funding for response, but let’s also, how do we span the entire spectrum to be able to provide those necessary resources, because it does take a long time to rebuild. And so issues that we’re running up against is oftentimes, it’s what they want. Or oftentimes companies are looking for that immediate press release. We donate an X number of dollars or X number of products to this response, but six months, a year, two years. And so I value so much and appreciate what companies have begun to do to pivot that have been more intentional about how does it matters versus what’s the return for us just to be in the press for this little soundbite of us making a donation.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yes, thank you for that. One of the things that we’re doing right now is we’re doing a capacity campaign, because our work is done through people, and I have to be able to pay people, and they need health insurance too. And so I like that. I feel like after 2020, that more funders are saying, hey, we actually understand that. And we also understand the long term, because our goal is to raise. We always have to have enough money in the bank to be around for three years, because I can’t walk into a community and say, hey, we’re going to be with you long term. We make a commitment for three years at a minimum. Because after three years, they tend to be kind of knowing where they’re going. And we’ll still be here, but we want to remain free to all communities that’s really important to us from an equity standpoint. But asking for that just capacity money is only recently in this field of great interest to funders, and we just got a Walmart grant for $220,000, just really happy about that funds, our capacity in that work.

Trey Bearden: Congrats.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I know, thank you. And I was thrilled, and it really took like Walmart to pivot and say, hey, what can we look at in this sense that can do more long term work and support it? But I’m seeing some of those big names. We’re together. I’m gonna follow up with you off this podcast, and we’re going to talk about how to put you in connection with wildfire affected communities, the possibilities for having ToolBank USA be of service there in any way that I can actually help your mission. I’m very happy to do like, I am passionate about this. This is all that I do, like to a fault which actually brings me to my last question for you which is something I always talk about in this podcast because I talk to so many leaders in disaster is, how do you take care of yourself? Because we, in this job, see a lot of trauma, and a lot of distractions. So leaders tend to not take care of themselves, and it’s a hazard of the job. So if you have any, what do you do to take care of yourself, and any advice you have for other leaders in the disaster space?

Trey Bearden: I mean, what thing that I always say is like, you have to be willing to talk to other people and find a close group. I mean that it can be one person, it can be a couple of different people, I prefer to have a couple of people just because I don’t want to feel like I will burden any one person. But finding those close people that can just help you process, and to really kind of think through and just unpack what you’ve gone through. Because to your point, I mean, it is dramatic. Because oftentimes, you’re bearing the burden. I mean, it just all comes. We all do it, and we all grieve differently. But I also say is like, just give people space. Other people like it. I’m thinking through is like, space needed, because we all grieve differently. And so, how do people process, and how do people move forward? And to me, it’s just always keeping those lines of communication with our team has always been available. And so if I have people in the field, it’s always just that they know they have a direct line to me, and always have been making myself available to them.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Not you. That’s a typical, like helper response, though, do you know? It is. I’m really just pushing this forward because I know that with my own PTSD, like from 2017, I’ve had to grapple with that at different points, or different things have triggered it. And the one thing that I have come to learn is, no matter what, you really can’t ignore it. Because it’s not, it just doesn’t work. Do you meditate? Do you have like, personal, I mean, I’m not trying to get too personal, I’m really just trying to help people figure out how to disaster. But in taking care of ecosphere of you, Trey.

Trey Bearden: Yes. I know, I kind of started there and then I kind of deviated–

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I was ready for it, though.

Trey Bearden: You were. You quickly just tried to corral me. You wouldn’t let me get away from you, you won’t let me get go down that path. I do. I exercise, and I do meditate, that is a part of who I am. For me, that’s probably part of the biggest aspect of it. Because obviously, I haven’t been to church. I don’t personally find myself in the church anymore. Not to go down that path, but just like institutional. But finding my way out and just create the creation out in humanity. And seeing people in just going outside, going for walks, but also just processing it, and addressing it, and working my way through it, rather than suppressing it. Because suppressing it never really does you and has never done me well. So how do I, just look inside and either find it within that I can process through it, and or I will go back to those few confidants or people in my circle that I can open up to be able to express what’s going on and seek some guidance, somebody just to walk alongside, somebody to share it with. Sometimes, it’s not that I’m necessarily looking for an answer, it’s just that I’m looking just to share and have somebody, just genuinely there to listen and to care for you. To me, that would probably one of the biggest is finding that support, whatever that support means for you. For me, it’s two or three guys.


“Allow yourself to be cared for, which is a hard thing for people who work in a disaster.” -Jennifer Thompson


Jennifer Gray Thompson: And do allow yourself to be cared for, which is a hard thing for people who work in disaster. It’s just not the, you know what I mean? It’s like, you’re like, yeah, no, my job is I’m going to care for everybody else, which is in my immediate, that’s exactly what you defaulted to is like, how do I care for my people? I admire that, because that’s how you are, who you are. I just came home from a deployment so I know that I will have like one to two weeks where I will be a little cranky. My husband knows that, where I’ll just be like, do I have to offload everything that I just saw? Because we can’t go into communities and just burst into tears. That’s not our role. They need us to hold on to their pain and their suffering, and to alleviate that. And so that’s an appropriate role for us. So I always touch upon that. And thank you for humoring me on that. Trey, is there anything that I haven’t touched on today that you wish to include in this podcast you want people to know?

Trey Bearden: I don’t think so. I think we kind of circle back around. I’ll make sure I said something about the funding piece and some of our funders. So you can find this on the web at And from there, you can learn more about us, you can learn about our disaster program, but you also have direct links to all of our affiliates. So we do have links to all of their sites. We are as we’re coming out of COVID in our action, say coming out, we’re still in it, I understand. But as we move into this pandemic, though, as we’re able to move through this, I mean, we’re excited about some things that are happening right now, as far as Hurricane Ida response or long term recovery. We have formed a partnership with a nonprofit in New Orleans, and we’re working on renting some space and setting up a more permanent presence in the New Orleans area to serve that community. Both, we’ll call Blue and Gray Sky. 

And then we’re creating our second ToolBank Disaster Services hub in Dallas. And so that’ll be a hub for our TDS, but it also serves as a community ToolBank to serve the Dallas Fort Worth area. And so we’re excited about that opportunity. I would be remiss not to mention, we continue to do our operations in Puerto Rico. And so continue to be excited, we’ve hired a gentleman local who’s been a tremendous asset, Jaime Valle, to our team. And so just continue to support those people who, I mean, when you say our hurricane Maria and the earthquakes, people are like, that was a long time ago, like 2017 was the earthquake. I mean, it was a hurricane. And the earthquakes were the beginning of 2020. But, I mean, as you know, as we’ve talked about through this conversation, it’s not a couple of years. I mean, you can still fly into San Juan and still see blue tarps. And so just excited about all the different fronts that we’re working on. We’d love to find ways in which we could support the work that you all do and the organizations that respond to fires. So I’m definitely interested to learn more about that, and how we might intersect.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I will definitely take you up on that, and I would be honored to work alongside you serving communities. I want to thank you once again Trey for being on the podcast, How to Disaster. And that’s a wrap. Thank you.

Trey Bearden: Thank you.

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