Both The Salvation Army and The American Red Cross are ready to step in and manage the relief efforts for the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of what is now Hurricane Isaac. This slow moving front, which has been making headlines for days, is expected to have a broad impact- from the Florida Panhandle to New Orleans. Weather experts are predicting wide spread flooding from both heavy rain and storm surges, power outages, and beach and road erosion. Northwest Florida has been battening down the hatches, and we are prepared from some heavy rain and wind later this week. The thing about tropical weather is that while you are hoping your community doesn’t take a direct hit, you know that someone else will. As The Emerald Coast says a prayer of thanks for being spared the worst, I started to investigate the best way to help other communities. I learned that you don’t need to be Oprah Winfrey or Extreme Makeover Home Edition to make a big difference in the life of residents who have been affected by a natural disaster.
The Red Cross and The Salvation Army do not accept donated goods or nonperishable items during a crisis. They feel as though the time spent sorting, packaging, and distributing goods would be better spent on other activities. For almost all disaster recovery organizations, from The Red Cross to Doctors Without Borders, cash is king. You can donate on-line, or via text message. To donate $10.00 to the Salvation Army, text the word STORM to 80888, and to donate to the American Red Cross, text REDCROSS to 90999. If you are concerned that your money will not be spent on relief efforts, both organizations have detailed information about how and where the money is spent, with more than 90 cents of every dollar going to programmatic and relief work, as opposed to administrative costs.
When Isaac began to threaten South Florida, local blood banks shuttered collection centers and postponed mobile drives. This has left the blood supply in Florida at critically low levels. I’m sure they are feeling the same crunch as the storm moves westward. Donating blood in your community will ensure that there is inadequate blood supply for both regular hospital usage and emergencies. One pint of donated blood can save up to three lives. Check your local blood bank for an ongoing blood drive near you.
Finally, you may feel inclined to donate nonperishable food items, water, and cleaning or personal hygiene supplies, and the Red Cross suggests coordinating a drive with a larger organization to make the process more efficient and streamlined. For example, the United Methodist Committee on Relief manages the collection and dissemination of cleaning, hygiene, and bedding buckets, among others. They have detailed and specific instructions for packing and shipping the supplies. Check with your local church to find out if there is a larger giving program already in place. Your local Habitat for Humanity is also a good resource. They may be planning spring breaks trips to rebuild homes and communities in both the Mid-West and the Gulf Coast.
Like everyone else, I’ll be spending the next few days watching T, Gulf-Coasthe Weather Channel for storm updates. I’ll also be figuring out the best way for me to give a little back to a community. Living on the Gulf Coast, it could certainly be me in need of help next time.