Survivors find a calm voice after the storm
Rescued from their flooded home, Andy Cordova and his family survived and recovered from Hurricane Harvey, thanks to inspiring help from disaster specialist Bridgette Fletcher of Wells Fargo.
As Hurricane Harvey bore down on their suburban Houston home, Andy and Sheri Cordova packed any belongings they could carry, gathered their two children, and rushed to a neighbor’s house as they waded through waist-deep floodwaters. They hunkered down on the second floor and waited for morning, praying for a break in the rain.
After surviving a frightful night of rain and flooding, Cordova peered outside the next morning and saw the waters appeared to have receded. He and his wife made their way to their house, opened the door, and were stunned to see everything was still dry.
“Both of us were crying tears of relief,” he said. “We thought we had really dodged a bullet. We sat for a few minutes, sort of took everything in, and said some prayers together. Then we went back to get the kids. We thought we were in the clear.”
Their joy did not last long. Within hours, the flooding returned — seeping in at first, then spreading room to room, and eventually overflowing their home and neighborhood, he said. After racing to save any other items they could, they fled to another neighbor’s house and waited hours amid the rising waters until volunteer workers in pontoon boats rescued them.
After the September 2017 disaster, months of recovery followed for the Cordovas, who lived in a local high school-turned-emergency shelter and a number of other places as they tried to rebuild their lives and their home.
Being there at every step
Only days after Harvey hit, however, Cordova said he connected with a calm voice after the storm — the one person he could count on to be there for them: Bridgette Fletcher, a home preservation specialist at Wells Fargo’s suburban Phoenix contact center, in Chandler, Arizona. During hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Fletcher worked with a number of customers hit by the disasters.
“It’s the kind of customer service Wells Fargo strives to provide — especially in times of disaster and other adversity, when it is needed the most.” — Rullah Price
From basics, such as explaining the mortgage relief that was available, to the challenges of working with contractors and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she took Cordova through every step of disaster recovery, he said. Then she went even further — empathizing, showing genuine care for the family, setting up weekly calls with Cordova, and always offering encouragement.
“Through all of this, we formed a strong customer service bond and ultimately a friendship,” he said. “It wasn’t that she just took a professional interest in us. She took a real interest in my family, our well-being, and our rebuild. There are no words to express the gratitude we have for Bridgette’s commitment to helping guide us through the toughest time in our lives.”
The Cordovas are among nearly 40,000 Wells Fargo customers in Houston and 126,000 across the U.S. who have received mortgage relief and other assistance over the past 18 months — from hurricanes Harvey and Irma to the California wildfires, according to company data. For Fletcher and other home preservation and disaster recovery specialists, the calls for help easily run into the hundreds of thousands.
“When we get such great feedback from customers like the Cordovas about the help they got from Bridgette and others on our disaster recovery team, it is a testament to their unrelenting commitment to always do what’s right for our customers, their temperament, and their hearts,” said Rullah Price, director of Community Outreach for Wells Fargo Home Lending. “It’s the kind of customer service Wells Fargo strives to provide — especially in times of disaster and other adversity, when it is needed the most.”
From their first conversation, Fletcher said, Cordova immediately impressed her with his sincerity, tenacity, project management acumen, and love for his wife and children. Their weekly calls would cover everything from construction cost estimates and paperwork, to his hopes for his children, both of whom have autism.
“I’d often just listen, not only to what had happened with the rebuild that week, but to all the frustrations Andy was feeling,” she said. “Sometimes, so much seemed to be going wrong, piling more tragedy on top of tragedy. I like to think that just listening helped him get through the worst moments and keep on going until the work was finished.”
Opening a new chapter
Cordova eventually did get the family’s home finished in early 2018, after a long journey of delays, setbacks, wins, and losses. One of the biggest wins was the start of a new career for Cordova, a former oil and gas industry logistics manager who was unemployed when the hurricane hit. That enabled him to devote his time to navigating the maze of paperwork, keeping the rebuild on track, and helping his neighbors recover from Harvey, he said.
By the spring of 2018, Cordova himself had landed a new job as a disaster-recovery case manager for a Texas state subcontractor that worked with FEMA. He made the career move largely inspired by Fletcher and all the ways she had helped his family, he said.
“She is just a phenomenal disaster recovery specialist who went above and beyond to help us,” he said. “It was that and my other experience in the community after Harvey that drew me to disaster recovery work. I knew I wanted to pay it forward, even if I could never pay back all the support that we had received. I wanted to help others in that same way.”
After 1½ years of talking by phone, Cordova and his family met Fletcher in person for the first time in early March during her visit to Houston. There were hugs, laughs, and more than a few tears in the memorable, emotional meeting.
“It was just like getting back together for a family reunion after you haven’t seen each other in a long time,” Fletcher said. “Meeting them in person really gave me a greater sense of the devastation they were facing and the fear they must have been feeling.
“They’re such an awesome family,” she added. “By the end of the visit, both Andy and Sheri hugged me and told me they loved me. It’s hard to put into words how much that meant to me, and all of us, really.”