Real Life, Useful Stuff

Annotated Guide to Helping After Hurricane Harvey

Texas National Guard
Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard support relief efforts to residents of Cyprus Creek. (US Army National Guard photo by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle)

I wrote a very long and chatty post that I was going to, well, post today, but my friend Kara tweeted a link to this excellent article on Consumer Reports about how to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, and I wanted to give it a boost. Only it turned into a whole post.

You can skip to the linky bits at the bottom if you want.

Some people this week have asked how I’m faring, but Texas is really really big and I’m far away from Houston. But I lived in South Texas for a long time. I went to church and did my grocery shopping in Rockport. The pictures out of there made my heart hurt. They’ve been eclipsed by the utter devastation in Houston, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of the damage on the lives of people in Rockport, Port Aransas, Port Lavaca and Corpus Christi.

If I still lived on the family ranch, though, I would have been blown all the way to Oklahoma. But I don’t. I live in Fort Worth, which is only part of the way to Oklahoma.

Coast Guard responds after Hurricane Harvey
The Coast Guard assessed damage and offered search and rescue assistance during an overflight from Port Aransas to Port O’Connor.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland.

While living down there, we had one near-miss hurricane and one that did major damage to the house. But nothing was lost that couldn’t be replaced. I look at these pictures and think, I can’t honestly compare anything in my life to this. It’s like your friend breaks her arm and you’re like, “Yeah, this one time I broke my pinky finger.”

But when I recall my small-but-still-major-to-me hurricane, I just know how lucky we were to have family who rushed down to help, to be able to drive (once the water went down) to the town over and get a shower and a Whataburger.

Search and rescue in response to Hurricane Harvey
The Coast Guard responds to search and rescue requests in the greater Houston Metro Area Aug. 28, 2017. 
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland.

I can’t even imagine what it would be like to leave on a raft, or airlifted out, with just the clothes you’re wearing. So many people–and it’s always the people with the least resources, by which I mean money–have lost literally everything. They will be rebuilding their lives, but for no, they are dependent on the kindness of strangers. That’s a whole different kind of terrifying than rising flood waters.**

So. Hurricane Harvey.

Pan Dulce for Harvey.jpg
Bakers trapped by high water in the El Bolillo Bakery spent two days making pan dulce for evacuees. This is one of my favorite stories because it ends with two of my favorite words: sweet and bread.

Let’s talk about the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and Air Guards from all different states who have been working their butts off. You can click here to go to the Coast Guard’s pictures of the Hurricane Harvey Response. Check it out. Bring Kleenex.

Not to mention all those amazing pictures of volunteers and just, you know, ordinary people going out with boats and jet skis and canoes and rescuing people and dogs and horses and women in labor. I’m getting verklempt thinking about it.

Like I said on Twitter this week. I still believe that individuals are, overall, much more good than bad. And sometimes human beings are pretty good in groups, too.

So, what can you do?

If you, like me, want your money to go as far as possible. I don’t want to repeat everything Consumer Reports (or this other very useful article by the New York Times) said, but here’s some cherry picked info and links.


How to best help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, the money part:

  • You can check out any charity through sites like Charity Watch. Not just to avoid scams (though there is that), but also you want to give to a charity where only a small percentage goes to operating costs.
  • To get the most bang for your buck, give to charities already on the ground. For instance, Americares can provide $200 in aid for ever $10 you give. They know what’s needed and they have the infrastructure in place to collect and distribute where it will do the most good. Direct Relief and the Humane Society of the U.S. are two others.
  • Local charities are also good choices, like Food Bank of Corpus Christi and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. (Because you know who has infrastructure like nobody else? The Roman Catholic Church. I think they invented it. Anyway, they aid people of all religions and none. Contrary to Dan Brown novels there’s not a quiz or a secret handshake.)
  • Unless an on the site organization puts out a specific call—Like the Texas Diaper Bank—money is usually far more useful than good. One, someone on the other end has to figure out what to do with them when there are more immediate concerns, like health and safety. Two, most of these organizations can get a lot more for the dollar than we could at the supermarket.
  • Think about the future. There’s a huge immediate need, but it takes a while to rebuild a life. Think about charitable giving for the next year. You can set up monthly donations automatically at a lot of organizations.
Americares distributes medical supplies and basic health needs all over the world, and they are working overtime in Houston. Here is a link to what they’re doing in Southeast Texas.

How to best help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, the non-money part:

  • Open your home. Airbnb is waiving all fees until Sept. 25 for people who can provide (free) accommodations to evacuees.
  • Donate blood. (This is one of those things where there’s always a big rush and then crickets the rest of the time. Donate now, but definitely donate later, too.)
  • Adopt a Pet. Look online, call your local shelter…there are going to be lots and lots of displaced pets. Every house is better with a dog in it.

I totally did not mean to plagiarize paraphrase that whole article. But at least here you got my commentary. So, you’re welcome?

Houston underwater is a huge hairy big deal. Meanwhile, the world will keep turning, North Korea will keep poking East Asia with a stick, and the president will keep saying tone-deaf nonsense. But if ever there was a time to just chill the heck out and be nice to everyone, this is it.

Abe-excellent to each other


1 thought on “Annotated Guide to Helping After Hurricane Harvey”

Comments are closed.