I think it’s safe to say that everyone has seen far more videos and photos of destruction and loss from Hurricane Harvey than any of us ever wanted to. That level of devastation is hard to fathom. It seems fair to say that most of us want to help, but some of us aren’t sure how, or if what we do will even make a difference. Add reports of scams and charities that aren’t all we’d like to hope they are, and knowing how to help becomes even more difficult.
It doesn’t have to be. I am by no means an expert, but I do seem to know a lot of really smart people who are really good at helping others. Here are some of the ways I’ve seen people helping that seem like good ideas to me:
Start with Charity Navigator. I love this site. If you’re not familiar, they rate charities on their practices and how they spend their money. It’s an excellent resource in determining who to donate to. Most of us have a finite amount of money, and don’t want to turn it over to just anyone. There’s a special section right now for Hurricane Harvey relief, so you can make sure your funds are put to the best use possible.
Donate supplies through your employer if they’re doing a collection. One of the court security officers started a collection of supplies from the courthouse, detention center, and Sheriff’s Office in our county to be delivered to Hearts With Hands, as well as supplies to be delivered directly to the Houston Police Department from the Sheriff’s Office. She handed out a list of items needed to all of the offices in the three buildings and designated a collection point in each building.
I thought this was a particularly good idea. I’ve read that donating supplies can be tricky because of the logistics of getting them to the people who need them, but by delivering them to a charity who can coordinate delivery and distribution, that problem is solved. Being given a long list to work with makes it easy for everyone to get involved. It’s easy to add one or two things from the list to your weekly grocery shopping and take them into work the next day. For those of us who coupon and sale shop, we already had some of the items requested on hand. This gave us a way to share them.
Choose what matters most to you to help with. Unfortunately, we can’t all give money and supplies to every worthy organization helping with relief efforts. I think a good way to decide is to help a cause that you’re passionate about. For us that typically means animal rescues and first responders. For Nick’s mom and step-dad, it has been animal shelters and a program to replace school books. A coworker of mine chose to send an Amazon order of diapers to one of the diaper banks. We’re all different, and we all have different needs, passions, and ideas. Think about what you might want or need the most if you were in that situation.
Don’t hesitate to step up and organize something if you see a way to fill a need. Someone had to get the collections started at work, and I think we’re all grateful to the officer who did. It’s surprisingly easy to coordinate a group effort. I saw a post on Chewy.com’s Facebook wall from a volunteer at the San Antonio Humane Society asking if they could donate kitten milk replacer, puppy milk replacer, canned kitten food, and canned puppy food. That seemed like something I could coordinate, being no stranger to ordering pet supplies online. I posted on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to contribute to sending them a box. Nick’s mom got involved as well, and within 24 hours we raised over $220.00 for the supplies they had asked for. There’s now a box with needed items on the way to them. It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of what’s needed, but I’m telling you about it just to show you that it’s not difficult to pick something you care about, and coordinate an effort to help.
Consider donating closer to home to help with relief efforts. Is your state, county, or city sending a swift water rescue team, or other volunteers to help? Consider making a donation to them to help with those costs, or to use as they see fit in the affected areas. Contact some of your local emergency response agencies to see if they’re collecting supplies to send to similar agencies in affected areas.
Don’t underestimate the value of doing one relatively small thing. It’s so easy to feel like what we’re able to do won’t be enough to make a difference in such a huge disaster. Everything counts, though. I think that’s the beauty of so many people helping one another. Don’t feel like your monetary donation doesn’t matter because it’s not a huge amount, or your supplies aren’t enough to bother with. If you what you’re able to give is one dollar, or one package to a bin for supplies, then do it. None of us can do everything, but most of us can do something.
So what about you? Have you discovered any ways to help that are especially meaningful to you? Are you aware of a particular need of a particular organization? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments for any of us still looking for a way to help.