Before hurricanes Harvey and Irma this summer, 2005’s Hurricane Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history according to CNN Money. Flooding and ripping up the Gulf Coast, CNN reports, Katrina created what would amount to $160 billion in damages today for America alone.
CNN Money notes that financial losses from Harvey and Irma may reach about $200-290 billion dollars. What part of that figure will flow from rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure is unknown.
All of us can help minimize damages through donations to charitable organizations helping Houston, the Gulf Coast, Florida and other southeastern states.
What to Give
The logistics of storing construction supplies or other goods — such as clothing, food and water — is challenging following a natural disaster. Relief experts and journalists who have covered many natural disasters say it is best to contribute money in the immediate aftermath of such events.
First-responder charities are on the ground immediately after a disaster. They provide basic emergency and rescue services, including medical care and evacuation. Charities that help with rebuilding structures will arrive later when it is possible to begin work.
If you do plan to donate construction materials or other goods, such as clothing or food, be sure to talk with the charity involved about what is needed. Many non-profits do not accept clothing or shoes because they often get an influx of them and often have a difficult time sorting, cleaning and storing these items. So always call ahead and ask what supplies a non-profit is collecting.
At North Star Stone, we are organizing a donation of stone veneer to Habitat for Humanity Lake County. These supplies will likely be used here in the Chicagoland area, but we are looking into other options for donating to help hurricane victims repair and rebuild their homes. Habitat will be able to use our stone veneer to update stone fireplaces and add stone siding on HFH homes locally.
Choosing a Helpful Charity
To make sure your contributions help where intended, access a charity rating service online. CharityWatch, GuideStar and Charity Navigator are organizations that evaluate the efficiency and helpfulness of many kinds of charities based on a wide array of factors. It’s easy to access ratings at the websites of all three.
Habitat for Humanity, SBP USA and All Hands Volunteers are examples of charities that have solid ratings on all three websites.
Habitat allows donors to designate where their cash contributions should be applied. You don’t need to be a construction professional to swing a hammer or help with other rebuilding tasks on Habitat projects. However, check with the branch where you hope to volunteer to find out what openings and skills are needed. Churches often form Habitat teams of including volunteers of varying skill levels. Check with local congregations to see which ones are planning construction mission trips to disaster areas.
All three organizations help train volunteers on the job. But don’t show up at one of their worksites without applying to volunteer and receiving an assignment. Self-deploying to a disaster area can be chaotic and dangerous. It may also slow work teams.
Rebuilding is a slow process. However, SBP USA, which cut its teeth on helping the Gulf Coast rebuild post-Katrina, learned how to speed up its projects from auto manufacturer Toyota. SBP has shared the process with other relief charities, including Habitat.
Lending a Hand Internationally
Late August through mid-September 2017 will be remembered as a time of unparalleled hurricane destruction internationally. Hurricane Irma created tremendous damage throughout the Caribbean before making landfall in Southwest Florida. Hurricane Katia almost simultaneously walloped the east coast of Mexico shortly after a massive earthquake. At publication time, we’re hoping Hurricane Jose will continue winding down away from land in the Atlantic.
Both Habitat and the UK-based All Hands Volunteers help rebuild communities worldwide following calamities as do all the charitable organizations listed in this 2016 ThoughtCo. article about disaster relief organizations. There are also many smaller non-profits that are helping Hurricane victims that may be accepting donations of money and supplies, as well as looking for volunteers to help rescue, clean and rebuild after these disasters. Stay tuned and we will be updating this post with local charities that need help and are providing help to hurricane victims.
So, lend a hand at home or lend a hand internationally. Together we can fix what is broken one nail, one stroke of paint and one piece of stone at a time.