When Disaster Strikes, Team Rubicon Is There

The nonprofit, founded by a former U.S. Marine, rebuilds communities before, during and after a catastrophe with the help of its 150,000 veteran volunteers.

September 22, 2022

By Sara Counihan

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—It’s been said that the “C” in “c-store” doesn’t just stand for convenience. It also stands for community, and Team Rubicon is the pinnacle of what it means to help communities and those in need around the world.

Jake Wood, founder of Team Rubicon, is slated to speak at the NACS Show during Monday’s general session. Wood started the nonprofit after he left the Marine Corps in late 2009. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake hit, Wood was inspired to use his skills and experiences as a military veteran to help those in need, and Team Rubicon was born.

“I helped organize a team of veterans and doctors to get on the ground. We got down there four days later, and you know, almost 13 years later now, we’ve done that same thing over a thousand times in communities all around the world,” said Wood on this week’s NACS Convenience Matter podcast episode.

Nonprofits that specialize in disaster relief agree that one organization can’t address all the needs of a community after a catastrophe hits, and Wood says that Team Rubicon’s work mutually reinforces the work of other organizations and takes care of things like infrastructure, getting the lights back on, making sure roads are cleared and people are able to move about in the community again.

“We take care of a lot of those different functions that some of the organizations don’t,” he said.

Team Rubicon has over 150,000 volunteers, and most of them are military veterans. Wood says that the U.S. military spends billions of dollars each year to train and utilize military men and women, but when these people take off their military uniform for the last time, the U.S. taxpayer is no longer getting a return on that investment.

“We see this as an opportunity to stretch that resource further by challenging those men and women to continue their service,” said Wood. “And frankly, it’s a challenge I think most of them are looking for.”

One thing that Wood speaks openly about is love—not the typical talking point from a veteran combat Marine. Wood learned in the military that the most important factor in unlocking the courage of a team is creating a sense of safety for those team members, and the fastest way to create that sense of safety is for people to feel cared for.

“I talk about that and use the word ‘love,’ because I think it’s the most powerful form of that. And what happens is when people feel cared for, they feel that sense of safety,” he said. “They know that you have their back, they know that you will do anything for them, whether that’s for them professionally or whether for them personally.”

You don’t want to miss this week’s NACS Convenience Matter podcast episode No. 354 “Team Rubicon’s Commitment to Serve Communities.” Hear more about Wood’s leadership experience, including how he believes that just like panic can spread like a contagion, so can leadership and calmness. Also, find out how Team Rubicon recruits and keeps its volunteers.

Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. She can be reached at scounihan@convenience.org.