I fell asleep watching CNN again last night. That’s never a sign that I’ll have pleasant dreams. I did that many times in the days that followed 9/11. And now watching the news of Hurricane Harvey, I’m reminded of being glued to my television during Hurricane Katrina.
Often it can be like watching a distant tragic event when something catastrophic happens somewhere else – unless it is personal to us. Travel makes the world a smaller place so very often these events feel close to home. Every hurricane or natural disaster that strikes seems to affect someone I know, especially since we are no stranger to extreme weather events.
What Can You Do?
But whether it does or not, I like knowing I can help. One of the fastest ways to get aid to disaster sites is through the American Red Cross.
In coming days and weeks, countless other aid efforts will spring up. Because we live in Texas, our neighbors will put together canned food and bottled water drives. Individuals wanting to be helpful will try to organize home goods and used clothing, school supplies and toys. Some will even open their homes to friends and family living near the coast.
I love the grassroots efforts and have coordinated a few myself. But I know from hands-on experiences that the best efforts come working with organized aid groups. Local organizers know how to quickly and effectively coordinate donations. Too often, well-intended donations end up sitting undistributed. Sometimes there are not enough volunteers available on the other end to sort and distribute items. Or food items spoil due to lack of proper storage facilities. Very often, the donated items are simply not what is most urgently needed to get families back on their feet.
Sometimes the most useful item isn’t a bag of cast off donations. Instead its a Wal-Mart gift card or cash put in the hands of an organization that can determine the best needs. Consider giving directly to coordinated aid organizations rather than grassroots efforts if you aren’t certain of the donation flow. If you have the time and the means, consider volunteering with a coordinated aid effort. There will be numerous opportunities to offer services over the coming months and even years.
We will be helping. And in the meantime, we’ll be praying for the families in the path of Hurricane Harvey as they continue to work through this.