We are all painfully aware of the toll that the BP oil spill has taken on those who live along the Gulf Coast. Livelihoods have been profoundly impacted, the ecosystem and wildlife received a significant body blow, and the cleanup will take years. There continues to be anger and distrust aimed at everyone BP employs, assuming a widespread guilt by association.
Allow me to share another side of this complex, world-wide organization. During the past five years, BP subsidiary BP Energy, based in Houston, Texas, has quietly and effectively gone beyond the call of duty to care for abused and abandoned children. Partnering with the Krause Children’s Center, a residential treatment center located in nearby Katy, Texas, that serves children with severe emotional and behavioral problems, the BP Energy employees have “adopted” these children as if they were their own.
Twice a year, 80 to 100 BP Energy employees spend an entire day at Krause to paint, landscape, build fences, lay tile and sod, construct cabinets and bookshelves, and make whatever repairs the campus and buildings need at the time. Preparation for these workdays begins months in advance. Other BP Energy employees volunteer their time to help the 65 young residents, and numerous other employees donate funds to the Krause Center on an individual basis, with parent BP America matching their hard-earned gifts. BP Energy also sponsors and participates in an annual golf tournament, raising significant financial support for the Krause Center.
This partnership permeates throughout the entire BP Energy organization, from the traders at the trading desks to individuals like Orlando Alvarez, the organization’s Chief Operating Officer and emotional leader of this project, and Herb Vogel, its President. When you walk into the lobby of their six-story headquarters on the BP campus, the first thing you notice is a large framed photo and accompanying story depicting their support of the Krause Center. Every day, employees are reminded of the difference that they are making in the lives of the least of these.
At the invitation of Herb Vogel, I and several others had the opportunity one recent Monday morning to meet with his leadership team to strategize how we can take this relationship to the next level. They made time to meet with us even as they struggled to regain their balance after the disaster. Not once did anyone ask or suggest how this might benefit BP Energy. This was not about them or their company’s image. Their total focus was to learn more about the needs of the Krause Center and how they could best help.
Organizations like BP are often no different than you and me. We are, in the words of Martin Luther, at the same time sinner and saint. In my many conversations with various BP Energy staff it is clear that they are sensitive to past miscues, and it is evident how deeply they care for their community, family, and children in need. All of us are often too quick to judge those we read about in the daily press―sometimes sadly even enjoying being a spectator to the pain of others. It is my prayer that we not forget about the other side of the faces and human beings that make up BP.