Community Icon Leads in Time of Disaster

Stan Greer Millwork put community ahead of company in time of need
Christina Lewellen
October 1, 2012
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Stan Greer Millwork

Hereford, Ariz.

 

In the summer of 2011 in Sierra Vista, Ariz., and the surrounding southern Arizona communities, it took a village to fight a fire. And it also took a long-standing window and door distributor business to support that village.

Stan Greer Millwork, a second-generation company specializing in window and door distribution and installation in the new construction market, found itself directly in the path of the catastrophic Monument Fire that swept through southern Arizona and the Huachuca Mountains for nearly two weeks. As one of the most significant fires in the state’s history, the Monument Fire spread quickly as a result of high winds. It burned more than 32,000 acres and destroyed more than 80 homes and businesses before it was brought under control. Even as the Stan Greer Millwork facility was at high risk for fire damage, owners Garry and Debbie Greer jumped in to support the firefighters working tirelessly to protect the community, and they eventually opened up their warehouse facility to serve as a command center for emergency workers and displaced community members.

 
 Garry Greer and his family rallied a community in a time of need during the Monument Fire of 2011.

The Greers’ active involvement during and after the fire was not a result of their business being at risk at one point in the crisis; their son is also a firefighter, which compelled them to support the front-line responders, and they simply weren’t interested in standing by while their community suffered. “At the time, with my son being a firefighter, all you’re thinking about is the needs of the community,” says Garry Greer. “When we did that, we weren’t thinking about what we would get back out of it. You just do it.”

As it turns out, Stan Greer Millwork has gotten a lot out its involvement during the Monument Fire. The team’s extensive role in supporting the community did not go unnoticed, and Greer says there’s not a day that goes by that doesn’t have someone stopping into one of the company’s design center to say thank you. “For the people who are now rebuilding, they’re buying from us,” he says. “Givers gain, and takers lose, and what we did has come back.”

“The people of the community were so grateful to this company and for its leadership and resources it provided to the victims of this fire—all at a great cost to their own business,” notes Tim Henson, territory manager for Milgard Windows & Doors in southern Arizona. “Since that time, there have been dozens of times when I am in public with Garry Greer and people will come up and thank him for their generosity and leadership during this tragedy.”

“They say that you never really know the true character of a man until you see how he reacts in the face of adversity,” says Chris Ayres, director of construction for Castle and Cooke Arizona Inc. “Sierra Vista has found that it is very fortunate to have a friend like Garry Greer in the community.”

THE FIRE
Having been a family-owned-and-operated business in Sierra Vista since the 1980s, Stan Greer Millwork—named for Garry Greer’s late father—has been a mainstay in the community for years. The Greers’ oldest son works for the company part-time when he’s not working as a firefighter and EMT.

Given the hot and dry conditions typical to their part of southern Arizona, wildfires are not always a surprising act of nature. “We live next to the mountains, and we have seen fires in the past, so we weren’t really that concerned at first,” recalls Greer. “Everyone knows everyone—we live in a small community—so when some friends got evacuated from four canyons over, they came to stay with us.”

 
The Monument Fire spreads dangerously close to Stan Greer Millworks, causing the company to close for several weeks.  

With strong winds not working in the fire teams’ favor, the Monument Fire crept closer to the Greers’ personal residence and they were evacuated just a few days after they provided refuge for their neighbors. At this point in the crisis, the community may have lost around 15 houses or so, and the Greers were looking for ways to help. “I called up the fire chief,” Greer recalls, “and I told him to call me if he needed anything. We have thousands of square feet [at our warehouse] that we could turn into a command center for the firefighters.”

The emergency responders took Greer up on his offer. Within a few short hours, the Greer facility became a central hub for supplies and a refuge for weary firefighters. Millions of dollars’ worth of supplies were suddenly delivered to the Stan Greer Millwork site when tractor trailers started pulling up to unload, he notes.

Shortly after the warehouse was set up as a command center, the fire took out several more businesses and was on a path toward Stan Greer Millwork. Employees were evacuated and the company was forced to cease its day-to-day operations, but the warehouse remained open for responders—especially once a firebreak was put in place to control the trajectory of the fire. “It was so dry, and we had wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour that we’d never seen before,” Greer notes. “They clocked the fire at 115 miles per hour at that point. The highway was blocked but they let us open [the warehouse] back up to firefighters and they came here to eat and rest.”

Greer and several of his employees who volunteered were permitted to gather supplies in the company’s trucks and deliver necessities to those who were working on the front line. “Garry and his sons would fill up their trucks with Gatorade, water and snacks and then drive them up the canyons and deliver them to all the crews fighting the fire,” says Patti Miller, president of the Real Wishes Foundation in Sierra Vista.

The role of the warehouse expanded as well, housing exhausted firefighters and offering a store-like set-up so responders could quickly obtain the resources they needed. “We had firefighters come in here, totally exhausted, who said they had fought fires all across the U.S. and said they had never been treated so well,” Greer says. “Even things like boot laces—they would get so brittle in the field—and underwear, toothpaste, whatever they needed. It was like a Sam’s Club in here. [Responders] would come in here and just start crying with relief.”

Greer’s business was ground to a halt, his personal residence was at risk and his community was experiencing incredible destruction at the hands of the fire. Still, he stayed focused on supporting those who were there to help respond to the disaster. “I didn’t even think about it,” he says. “It’s just what everybody does—we all jumped in to help. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

ONE, TWO PUNCH
In the two weeks or more that the fire ripped through the region, not a single life was lost.

Greer recalls that more than $80,000 in supplies were shipped in from the state of Tennessee, given that the residents in that area had recently experienced debilitating tornadoes and had some remaining supplies. Community members in Sierra Vista who had lost their homes began visiting the Stan Greer Millwork command facility to get supplies and begin the long, hard process of rebuilding their lives. “Those who lost the most, after the fire was under control, would come in and get supplies,” Greer says. “We told them to take whatever they needed, and we raised money here to help them start rebuilding what they lost.”

 
 Windows and doors were cleared to make room for water and supplies during the crisis. The Stan Greer Millworks warehouse became a one-stop-shop for emergency responders and displaced community members.
 

The community faced a set-back about a month after the fire was finally under control because excessive rain resulted in flooding given that there was no longer any natural brush or barriers to help divert the water. “I’ve never seen water run like that,” Greer says. “It wiped out houses and snapped trees. But again, we didn’t lose any life, and that was the biggest thing.”

Still, between the fires and the subsequent flooding, the community faced a difficult path to rebuild and recover. Once again, Greer and his team at the business rallied the community, leading clean-up efforts and jumping in to help the community members most in need. “On July 10, the rains came and the flooding began and ravaged several homes in one of our canyons,” recalls Real Wishes' Miller. “One home in particular saw the most damage. It was owned by an elderly couple. The water and mud tore through their entire home and filled it with about three feet of mud and when Garry arrived at their house, the couple was standing there covered in mud. He immediately took this couple under his wing and began calling in all reinforcements to help them rebuild the home they had lived in for the last 40 years.”

THE RECOVERY
Greer took the reins to support a large-scale clean-up effort that took place after the fires and flooding. “He put teams of contractors and volunteers together and worked endless weekends,” Miller recalls.

“Garry and his group cut fallen trees and cleared debris from washes,” says Ayres. “They cleared mud and debris from neighboring homes and constructed sandbag walls around homes to create a barrier against further storm damage. Many of these residents were older and couldn’t have done any of this work themselves.”

After the crisis, Greer reports, there was an abundance of supplies that the community no longer needed and he felt a strong desire to make sure they got into needy hands. “You don’t think about tornadoes or hurricanes or fires until they happen in your own backyard,” he notes. “We had so many supplies and shortly after [our fires and flood], Texas experienced bad fires. We loaded up our extras in a truck and sent our supplies to Texas. We knew what they were going through.”

Now more than a year after the Monument Fire, the Greers’ business has bounced back fully and the team continues to help businesses and community members as they rebuild. “I am proud to be associated with this excellence company that is definitely a leader in the industry with a strong heart for their community,” says Milgard’s Henson. “The company has since recovered and is having an excellent year, seeing growth over its 2011 performance.”

“I believe each community has icons, people who are leaders and without them the community would not be where it is today,” adds Miller. “The Greer family and their business are an icon in Sierra Vista.”

Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at clewellen@glass.org.