The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Sept. 17 the 2020 National Small Business Week Phoenix Award winners. They were recognized for their outstanding and inspiring resilience in the aftermath of devastating disasters. This year's awardees include a resident and businessman from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Phillip Thomas Mendiola-Long of Tinian was named recipient of The Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer for disregarding "his personal losses to ensure the island’s recovery in the aftermath of  Super Typhoon Yutu in October 2018.

Yutu's 180 mile-per-hour winds severely damaged Mendiola-Long's gas station, one of only two on the island. The storm destroyed more than 3,000 homes, and Mendiola-Long's residence suffered extensive damage.

Despite his losses, Mendiola-Long decided to share his remaining resources to support the island's recovery. He returned to the gas station to find that the winds had ripped the only two gas pumps from their foundations.

Within 24 hours, Mendiola-Long and his staff had scavenged the island, found a hand pump, and built an extension line into the underground gas tank. The team could then begin pumping fuel for first responders, law enforcement officials and city agencies involved in the recovery effort. He also organized a volunteer effort to distribute generators donated by a local charity to disaster survivors.

Mendiola-Long reached out to Guam business contacts and gathered food, water, tents, first-aid kits and other survival necessities for the disaster survivors. He used his office as a supply distribution center that stayed open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. He drove to Tinian's hardest-hit areas, personally delivering relief goods to those in desperate need.

Using social media, he reached out to business contacts, family and friends in Hawaii, Guam, Nevada and Texas, and asked for donations.

His efforts netted 20 boxes of supplies and $15,000 in cash for the beleaguered island residents.

Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials, and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.

In addition to Mendiol-Long, this year’s recipients include two Texas small business owners who rebounded after massive inventory losses from Hurricane Harvey and an Ohio County commissioner who swiftly responded to the area’s needs following a tornado.

The virtual National Small Business Week event, rescheduled from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be held Sept. 22-24. 

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