Denham Springs, Louisiana, with about 10,000 residents, is the biggest city in fast-growing Livingston Parish, where over the past couple decades, people moved in droves to take advantage of the top-10 school district and short commute into the capital city. Now the streets in once-tidy subdivisions, not only in Denham proper but in neighborhoods surrounding the city, are lined with couches, broken down refrigerators and mounds of soggy sheetrock.
An estimated 90 percent of structures were inundated after torrential rainfall and a swollen Amite River sent floodwaters coursing through Denham Springs this past August—one of the hardest hit municipalities in the devastated Baton Rouge. The water poured into City Hall, crippling public services, ravaging neighborhoods and shutting down stores.
A flood this bad is supposed to happen only once every thousand years.
“Rain fell for days. It hit everywhere,” Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry said in a press release. “No part of the city went completely untouched.”
Jeremy Aydell remembers the night the flood hit. As warnings of heavy rain filled newspaper headlines and TV stations, Aydell was texting back and forth with his employees. Aydell is the owner of a Sport Clips franchise in Denham Springs, and his staff was discussing whether they’d be able to go into work the next day. They collectively decided to assess the situation in the morning—not knowing just how bad things were about to get.
Early that morning, around 3:00 a.m., Aydell got a text from one of his employees. It was accompanied by a photo, which showed a bedroom floor covered in two inches of rain water. Within two hours, that same employee texted again—the water was still rising, this time, by as much as five feet. She was stuck in her own home, and required a rescue team to come save her by boat. Her house was completely flooded, and she had nowhere to go.
“That was a wakeup call. Things were about to get even worse,” Aydell said.
That morning, as the sun rose, Aydell texted every single one of his employees to make sure they were safe. Eleven of them said their homes were submerged.
“They didn’t get their furniture up. They didn’t pack it up. People stayed, out of a false sense of security, and when the water came up and they realized how bad it was, they could only grab a few things as they left,” Aydell said. “It was heartbreaking to see. I’ve been in Denham Springs all my life—it was hard watching my community suffer.”
Aydell’s Sport Clips location had water damage of its own. His first of nine salons, Aydell considers his Denham Springs store his baby—a personal reminder of the first time he took a risk and ventured out on his own as an entrepreneur. He had to shut his store down for 12 days as crews came in to fix the place up.
“My first thought was that I can’t allow my employees—who were already reeling from the flood—to go nearly two weeks without money. They need to pay their bills. They needed money to restore their homes and get their lives back in order. They needed money to fix their water-logged cars,” Aydell said. “I made it my priority to make sure my employees had the support they needed as we started the process of rebuilding.”
After the water subsided, Aydell opened his location for business once again. That first day, they invited the entire community to stop by. All of his staff members—even the ones who were left temporarily homeless—came in that day to give free haircuts to anyone who walked into their doors. A local restaurant was on site that day, too, giving out bowls of homemade jambalaya.
“We gave 99 haircuts that day. It was uplifting to see the whole team—the people who had been so affected by this flood—come back into work. They all told me how much that meant to them that day—it gave them back a sense of regularity when nothing else made sense,” Aydell said. “We gave the community a place to come together that day. They sat around in our salon and just talked. They cried as they shared their stories of loss. They said that coming into Sport Clips was the most normal thing they had done since the flood, and it was nice to have that kind of comfort.”
Late one night, after the town continued its long and tedious process of recovery, Aydell got an email from Joe Klimek, an area developer for Sport Clips in Texas. He followed along as the news broadcasted the disaster that was happening just East of him, and he wanted to check in with Aydell to see how his team was doing. After hearing that nearly a dozen of Aydell’s employees were left with severely damaged homes, Klimek launched a GoFundMe campaign, calling on the entire Sport Clips system to personally chip in. Within one week, they raised more than $18,000.
In addition to the GoFundMe campaign, Team Members who were affected by the floods applied for financial assistance through the Sport Clips Wayne McGlone Memorial Relief Fund. This unique program, which provides financial assistance when tragedy strikes, is available exclusively to Sport Clips employees and franchisees, and has provided more than $735,000 in relief payments since it began in 2012.
Aydell had the chance to personally deliver checks to each of his employees, and he says he’ll never forget the look on their faces—it gave them a reason to smile again during an incredibly difficult time.
“That took a big burden off of our shoulders. I wanted to help them out as much as I could. But I’m just one person—I felt helpless. Having the help of Klimek and Sport Clips made it possible to give every single one of my Team Members assistance,” Aydell. “I realize that this is just one small step forward to helping them recover, but seeing that little bit of hope when everything else was taken from them was a great thing.”
Today, more than three months since the flood hit, a lot of progress has been made in rebuilding Denham Springs—but even still, there’s a lot of work that remains. Aydell believes it was the power of the Sport Clips network that really helped him and his team get through this tough time—and it’ll keep pushing them forward in the months ahead, too. From his own employees who came out to give back to the community despite their own adversity, to Sport Clips stores throughout the country donating to his team without ever having personally met him, Aydell says that, in a way, the brand became a lifeline for the town of Denham Springs—and for himself. And that, he says, is simply the Sport Clips way.
“Being a part of Sport Clips, you realize the power of the network—the family—that you’ve joined. We’re fortunate in that the other stores, the other team leaders and the other employees are always on our side. People from Sport Clips salons that are across the country helped us out,” Aydell said. “That’s just the culture that we have at Sport Clips. It’s about doing your best. And it’s about treating others the way you want to be treated.”