“I have a boat and want to help.”
‘Who needs hot food?”
“I’m going grocery shopping today. Who needs anything?”
“Who needs help with clean up?”
“I have a huge chainsaw, does anyone one need major chainsaw work?”
Questions like this have become the norm on my local forum, as thousands of people in my community are seeking to find ways to help disaster victimes whose lives have been upended by Hurricane Harvey. The storm has taught our family a lot about preparedness, surviving the wild winds and rain, and then, steps to take for recovery. You can ready some of those insights in this article.
Here in Texas, where he hit hardest, everyday people have come up with creative ways to assist and support those whose lives have been turned upside down. Help has come from every direction, but not surprisingly, the groundswell of local support has been the most helpful. Who knows how to help a neighbor or a family business better than the person next door or a loyal customer?
Here’s a list I’m seeing in my own community that may inspire you the next time disaster hits:
- Doing laundry for emergency workers who are working 24/7.
- Doing loads of laundry for people staying in shelters.
- Just showing up at road closures and delivering food and water to volunteers and first responders stationed there.
- Organizing a bicycle information route. This was organized by a former military man with experience in collecting and disseminating information. He asked for volunteers with sturdy mountain bikes and a few other supplies to show up at a local grocery store and be ready for a long day of riding around town checking on water levels and neighborhood conditions and then relaying that info to shelters, rescue volunteers, and local authorities.
- Offers to cut up wood with chain saw and helping the elderly clear their yard of storm debris.
- Having guest rooms ready for strangers.
- Certain toll roads are free.
- Some companies are offering free legal information to employees before they file insurance claims.
- Many people in my town are rescuing stray pets, caring for them, and then working to find their owners. At a time when animal shelters are overflowing, this is a much needed service.
- Homeschool families have set up a Harvey Help page, where homeschool families can post their needs and others can donate supplies, curriculum, etc.
- FOOD!! A lot of moms and grandmas have put their cooking skills to work and are taking hot meals to local residents who are helping to clean out flooded homes. I was told, “We just take plates of food to the neighborhoods that have been hit really hard and ask if anyone is hungry!”
- Free fried rice!! Asian City, a local restaurant, is giving meals of fried rice, hot soup, and soda to anyone who can reach their restaurant.
- Taking snacks, water bottles, iced down sodas, sandwiches, enrgy bars, and full meals to local fire stations. The one near our home finally said, “Stop! We have plenty of food!”
- The mayor of Houston put a call out to all boat owners, asking them to join the rescue efforts. The results were overwhelming. We live near Lake Houston and the San Jacinto River, and I think every boat owner in town was lined up at the fire station, waiting for their turn to go on a rescue call. This still brings tears to my eyes.
- Free photo salvage service offered by a small, local company
- A family with 3.5 acres opened their property to horse owners in need of shelter for their animals.
- The owner of Gallery Furniture, known as Mattress Mack, opened two of his showrooms to refugees and their pets. He furnished food and water as well.
- MW Cleaners offered free laundry service and will move dry clothes from one location to another. Will also pick up wet laundry to dry.
- Some moms have offered free babysitting for volunteers, emergency workers, and families dealing with cleaning up their homes.
- In a Facebook group, folks were rouding up packing materials, such as cardboard boxes and bubble wrap, to assist people who are packing up their homes.
- Every church that I know of is involved in one way or another. If you don’t know what to do or where to go to help, calling a church is a good first step.
- For families who are cleaning up flood messes, some have offered to care for their pets. Anything to relieve people of one less worry.
- One sweet lady on a local forum was having pizza delivered to homes/families in need.
- Stay at home moms with young children are doing what they can — babysitting, doing laundry, packing small snack kids for children, etc.
- Mary Kay ladies have made gift bags with makeup and skincare products and are delivering them to other women in flooded parts of town.
- Churches who ended up with more clothing and supplies than they needed for evacuees, have set up organized “stores” where people in need can drop by and shop, for free.
- Pillows! Shelters will need pillows and homes that have been flooded, have burned, or otherwise destroyed will have lost pillows and bedding.
What this boils down to is each individual, family, and business thinking, “What can WE do?” To illustrate that point:
- A local furniture store is offering free gift certificates for families who have lost furniture and beds.
- My optometrist is giving free contact lenses to those who lost their contacts in the flood.
- One homeschool effort will be teaching for free a “how to homeschool” class.
- At the moment I’m dealing with limited mobility due to an injury but it hasn’t stopped me from working as a dispatcher on a Zello emergency channel and driving cleaning supplies from church to church.
- My very, very organized friend managed her church’s distribution center.
- Children are helping pack snack and hygiene packs for evacuees.
- A pillow store donated 45,000 pillows to our town!
- Apple is offering to replace flooded iPhones for free.
- One large school district near me is giving free breakfast and lunch to all students through the month of September.
- Hey, even the IRS is getting in the spirit of things by postponing various tax due dates!
Bottom line — whatever your circumstances, you CAN find ways to help! Inventory your own skills, talents, and the amount of time you have, and you will almost certainly find your own creative way to offer support and comfort.
The blessing of social media
Social media has been a game-changer and has played a major role in allowing this level of hand-to-hand help to thrive. There are dozens of Facebook groups that have popped up, connecting local people with each other. Right now, a woman who lives a few miles away is collecting clothes for a mother and daughter who lost everything. I only need to meet her in the Kroger’s parking lot to give what we have. Earlier today a young man I have come to know on a local forum dropped by to collect 2 filled gas cans to run a generator. We have never met in person before today.
From this list, it’s obvious to see that everyone is doing what they can do, where they are, with what they have. While televised fundraisers are appreciated, a neighbor offering to babysit your kids and do your laundry while you take a 2-hour break from chaos is providing a level of comfort that no telethon ever will.