Words cannot express what Houston and the Texas surrounding areas have gone through in the past 7 days. Only a week ago I was leaving work to fight the crowds at the grocery store that was already out of most water, bread, and canned food. We all buzzed about where our homes were located, how they might be affected by the storm, and generally complained about how awful it would be to lose power and AC in the Houston summer. Little did we know what the city was in for.
Over 50″ rain later, I could not feel more blessed to be high and dry on an island in a city still devastated by flood waters. My experience in the storm comprised of staying home, cooking with good friends, watching the news in horror, and overall being completely fine. We never lost power or had any flooding, but the emotional journey was definitely exhausting. Houston itself did not see the major winds that the category 4 hurricane brought with it when it made landfall, but the slow moving tropical storm poured on us for days. What does that mean? Instead of an unlucky five homes on a street being crushed by trees, you end up with an entire neighborhood under feet of water.
Starting on Tuesday, those of us who could leave our homes began to show up at shelters by the hundreds and thousands to donate what we had and to volunteer in any way we could. I have never been so moved by something as I have been to be turned away because there were “too many people volunteering”.
Lines waiting to volunteer stretched further than the lines for people entering the shelter on Wednesday.
Restaurants opened to serve free food and ask only for donations for Hurricane victims.
Anyone with a boat was seen scouring the neighborhoods looking for people who needed to be rescued.
A Randall’s grocery store that lost power asked for people to pay in cash whatever they could afford and take whatever groceries they needed, even if they had no cash at all.
Uber offered free rides to anyone going to a shelter.
The list goes on and on. If there is anything I have learned from this experience, it’s that people, for the most part, are good. In a time of disaster, there is no place to think only of yourself and your comforts. Every little story that appeared over the last week of someone helping someone else has brought a tear to my eye. There is a sense of hopelessness and guilt that comes being a person at home watching the heartbreak on the news, knowing that you have been one of the lucky ones. So the only thing to do now is try to be a help to someone who has not been so lucky.
So, how can you help?
VOLUNTEER AND DONATE
If you are able to, getting to a donation site to sort and accept donations or shelter to directly help people in need is incredibly helpful. Also think about checking your local food banks, schools, and churches to see what they need help with. I found out through a friend that a camp was being held at her synagogue all weekend for children of affected families so that the parents could deal with their financials and devastation. Look online to find out how to pre-register so that you do not show up to be turned away. More programs are being opened up every day, so there will always be a place that needs help!
Instead of making a list of places to go, donate, etc., I have created a list of resources that have already done a great job summarizing places to donate (locally or online), what people need, and also places to volunteer.
- Here is a map that is being updated constantly with volunteer opportunities, as well as lists of needed donations. They tell you what dates and times are still available and give you information for where to sign up to register. This has been my favorite resource for volunteering and donating locally.
- CBS News created a list of “How to Help” with tons of links to volunteer locations, donation sites, legitimate Hurricane Harvey donation funds, blood drives, etc.
- My friends Natalie and Anastasia over at It’s Not Hou It’s Me wrote a post with lots of volunteer opportunities as well as their experience with what to expect at a big shelter like GRB convention center.
- If you want to help out by cleaning up peoples’ homes, this site can help you find where to go!
- Make sure you can get to these locations safely by checking DriveTexas beforehand
As a final note, I want to thank everyone who reached out to me during the hurricane. It was such an outpouring of love to hear from you all, and I am so thankful to have you in my life!