I recently wrote a blog explaining that, though we are extremely grateful for the amazing outpouring of love and support we are receiving in Texas, some donations simply are not of immediate necessity in our current stage of recovery attempts. If you have not yet had the chance to read it, you can check it out HERE.
Because I strongly believe in offering solutions and not just pointing out problems, today I want to share some creative ideas for ways you can help those who have suffered through this natural disaster.
I apologize that it has taken me so long to put this together but, as you can well imagine, time is a commodity in this area right now. We have spent our days finding our own ways to love our neighbors through the crisis, whether manning resource centers, delivering farm fresh eggs, or mucking homes, and it has been difficult to find time to breathe (which, by the way, is usually done all too often through an N95 respirator mask!), let alone write.
Please know your outpouring of ideas, love, and comments has been acknowledged, and my heart is overwhelmed and humbled by your compassion, kindness, and desire to love those in need here. Thank you. You are truly beautiful, my friends.
I want to be my usual, quirky, funny self on this post, but frankly I am emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted…and the work has only begun. And I am one of the lucky ones here in Houston. I continue to wrestle with the incomprehensible scope of the damage and devastation, and I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s impossible.
What I do know is this: No one can ‘fix’ this. No one can do everything that needs done alone. But everyone can do something, and those somethings are adding up and making a tremendous difference! We each have unique and beautiful abilities, passions, and gifts that we can and should apply to love our neighbors well, whether those neighbors are in Houston, Montana, or Syria. Without you, a very important part of the puzzle is missing – we are incomplete without you!
So without further ado, here is a list of ten ‘somethings’ you can do to love the Harvey out of your Texas neighbors. I know it’s not a complete list, but rather is intended as a springboard for your thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to share your other ideas as well as names and links of other trusted organizations in the comments.
1: Sponsor a family. This is a beautiful way to meet the very specific needs of a very specific family affected by the hurricane. If you are looking to help someone in a personal way, this is your ticket. I will, however, encourage you to vet your family well and be wary of those who are [sadly] using the tragedy of others for financial self gain. Knowing them personally (or someone you trust who knows them personally) is a very good idea. Once you have located a family, have them create an Amazon wish list for their most immediate needs. Then share the list with a circle of friends and family who can pour into them by purchasing the items and having them shipped directly to the family (or their sponsor who will deliver them personally to the family). Many who are hesitant to donate cash (for good reason) are willing to buy laundry detergent and toothpaste off these lists. We currently have a family under sponsorship, and I can’t begin to tell you the difference this can make in a life.
2: GoFundMe. There are many who have set up accounts to help raise money for individuals and families affected by the storm. Supporting a family in this manner allows them to simply purchase what is most needed at this time without the middleman. GoFundMe has graciously created a page with its Harvey related campaigns to make it easier for you to find an individual family to support. They also have an option to make a general Harvey Relief donation. You can find the list of Harvey campaigns HERE. Again, I encourage you to know or vet families before donating.
3: Amazon Prime. There are three ways that you can assist using this method. The first is sponsorship as above. Second, you can order items from a local resource center’s specific need list and have them shipped directly to the center from Amazon, preventing you from having to collect and distribute from afar. You can Check out Church Project’s list below in ‘local organizations.’ Lastly, you can use Amazon’s own Harvey relief list to make your donation purchase, which is already set up to go directly to resource centers of their choosing. I believe they are supporting the Red Cross specifically with this particular function. In addition, if you make your purchase through AmazonSmile, an additional percentage of the sale goes to a charity of your choice.
4: Sort before sending. Find out what is really needed in an area and send only those items. Please do the sorting before sending so precious volunteer hours at ground zero can be used for other essential needs. Remember that just because something is not needed at one center doesn’t mean it is not needed elsewhere. However, we do not have the hands and resources currently to do the redistribution. I also encourage you to consider looking into smaller communities like Rockport and Beaumont (and other disaster stricken states like Montana) whose needs are often being overshadowed by the sheer vastness of Houston’s devastation.
5: Have a garage sale. Instead of sending truckloads of trinkets and items that volunteers in stricken areas do not have time to sort and re-purpose or store, consider hosting a ‘Harvey’ garage sale of your own and donating the proceeds to the relief efforts. Many have asked me why we cannot take the excess items and just do that here. We simply do not have the manpower to undertake anything other than rescue and recovery efforts at this time. Everyone here has either been affected or knows someone who has been affected by the floods. The need is truly overwhelming, and our hands are completely tied with rescue and recovery efforts currently.
6: Bring quarters. If you live locally or are headed here to help but are perhaps physically limited, one of the greatest gifts you can give a family is washing, sorting, and returning their flood soaked laundry before the mold sets in and makes it unsalvageable. Most victims do not have time to do this seemingly menial task because they are frantically trying to save their home structures. You can take the clothing home or to a laundromat and return it clean and folded. Not only are you freeing them up for important recovery efforts, but you are very likely saving a small but precious piece of their lives that they would otherwise lose.
7: Offer pet-friendly shelter. Displaced people mean displaced pets (and livestock as well). Oftentimes families are forced to abandon pets if they want shelter – or to live on the streets to keep their pets with them. Offering pet friendly accommodations to displaced families with animals can help them immensely. You can also offer to foster pets in your home while displaced families work to find accommodation and get back on their feet. A fenced pasture can also be offered for displaced livestock, etc. There are also many local organizations taking cash and food donations to help feed, shelter, and love our fur, feathered, and scaled babies. Please help us keep our furry family members safe too.
8: Relief organizations. I will not personally condemn or condone any specific national relief organizations. I know there are strong feelings regarding which best meets the needs of disaster stricken people while appropriately stewarding donated funds. I certainly have my favorites such as Samritan’s Purse. However, I believe each person must do his/her own personal research before donating their hard-earned money and send donations to those places that best fit your desired outcomes and expectations.
9: Local organizations. I am a huge fan of donating to smaller, local organizations for a variety of reasons. They know the communities, know the need of the communities, and already have the relationships in those communities to best match the gift with the need. They also have a personal connection and love for their own communities that gives them more intentionality about their actions and choices. Additionally, most have low to no overhead expenses compared to national organizations because all volunteers are local, do not require transport and housing, and donate their time because they love their cities and neighbors. There are obviously too many amazing local charities to consider for me to possibly list all of them. The one I am personally giving my money as well as volunteer hours too is Church Project. I am passionately in love with this amazing group of men and women and can personally vouch that 100% of Harvey Relief donated through them is going directly to to the community. We have over 1,100 local volunteers that have been mobilized. We are running a donation and resource center, housing evacuees/responders, mucking homes, providing shelter under our own roofs, and working on recovery teams now and for the foreseeable future. You can donate cash, time, or items (please check list for needs) HERE.
10: Buy a book. I am giving all profits from sales of my books in the month of September back to Harvey victims. This is my city and my neighbors, and I want to do anything I can to help them. It’s just another way I can use my gifts to give back. Please check out the books at: The Crystal Keys: Champion of Destiny and The Crystal Keys: Sera Oth Berinon. Please also share with all of your book-loving friends and groups. Again, I urge you to check out through AmazonSmile when making a purchase so an additional percentage can go to a charity of your choosing. Every penny counts!
I am excited to announce that I have been joined in this effort by another local author and dear friend, Summer Lacy. You can check out her book His Word Alone HERE. I know Summer would say all of the exact things I did above given the chance.
I want to thank you all again for your incredible outpouring of love and support. There are truly not words to describe the emotional roller coaster that this week has been for so many. Unfortunately, we have a long ways to go, but seeing the beauty and love arising from the floodwaters is bringing great hope to every heart, both there and worldwide.
You are beautiful, friends.