As I watched the local news coverage of the devastation in the Houston area and along the Texas Gulf Coast, I knew this was going to be a disaster like no other.
My home was safe; the water surrounding it drained off in a few days. Seeing the reports of people who’d lost everything to Hurricane Harvey, the great urge set in: I have to do something to help. Many others experienced that same prompting and showed up from across Houston and around the country to volunteer.
When the pleas for money came, I remembered that the biggest need for relief and recovery aid is financial. I saw on social media and television the great confusion about this need and how to help wisely. Many began to give money, often in large sums. But the giving seemed a bit like the volunteering—just show up and do something.
There is a better way.
To begin, let’s separate two needs: relief and recovery.
Relief encompasses immediate physical needs in shelters or other locations:
- A safe place to stay
- Medical care
- Other basic necessities
Relief can last for days, weeks, and occasionally months. It’s likely what you see more of on the news or online.
Recovery is what happens after relief:
- Clean up and rebuilding of homes, work places, schools, animal shelters, hospitals
- Repair of these facilities and replacement of furniture, appliances, equipment, supplies
- Funds in lieu of lost employment or work, such as wait staff, sales personnel, wage earners, self-employed, and others whose employers close or lay off staff
In Texas, recovery will continue long after Harvey is out of the news.
Celebrities and large corporations often respond to the needs of the large relief organizations. A good question to consider as you think through your giving: Does all that money they raise stay in the disaster area?
Local organizations bear the greatest responsibility for recovery, along with local government supported by federal funds. We can meet this great, but often overlooked, need by helping local ministries, foundations, non-profits, and churches focused on recovery.
How do you find them?
- Ask those you know in the Houston area.
- Give to a local church that your church may be partnering with.
- Use Charity Navigator to find the best organizations. (Look for those with 3- or 4-star ratings.)
- Many towns and cities have foundations donors can give to. These foundations then use a grant process to give money to non-profits. Houston’s Mayor Turner set up the Harvey Relief Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation. The Rebuild Texas Fund has been set up at the One Star Foundation and is such just for helping Harvey victims with recovery.
Be sure to specifically designate on your check or grant that the donation is for direct help to victims of Hurricane Harvey.
No matter how or where you choose to give, this is a great opportunity to show God’s love to those who really need it.