Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hurricane Harvey and Volunteerism

I think we are all thinking about Hurricane Harvey and the people of southeastern Texas.  And of course, we want to know what we can do to help.  I met recently with Jocelyn Gilman and Muraad Abussalaam of the NJ Red Cross and they offered lots of great information that I am happy to pass along.
Ten month old Astro Arriaga sleeps in a Red Cross Shelter in Victoria, Texas.
Photo by Daniel Cima for The American Red Cross – August 26, 2017
The most important thing to know in the wake of a natural disaster is that cash donations are actually the best way to help. Money can be used to get local supplies and to give direct aid to victims.  While we often think about sending supplies, we need to recognize that things are hard to transport over long distances and hard to store.  With so much of southeastern Texas flooded, any in-kind donations are being routed to Dallas--3 and 1/2 hours away.

When making a donation, be sure that you have chosen a reputable nonprofit.  The NJ Division of Consumer Affairs warns us to avoid "charities" that have Hurricane Harvey in their names, as they might be scams.

You can donate blood locally and it will help supplies nationwide, which will help Harvey victims. There are other good suggestions for ways to help in this article.

Finally, another way to not feel so helpless in the wake of so much suffering is to get involved locally. Start by making sure you and your family are prepared for a man-made or natural disaster.  The Red Cross has a new free app (available at the iTunes App Store and Google Play) that provides incredible information and functions.

Perhaps you want to be trained as a Red Cross or CERT team volunteer, so that you can be ready if and when you are needed.

Jocelyn and Muraad reminded me that each year, most of the time the Red Cross is responding to house fires. Fire prevention, fire safety and smoke detectors are things we can take care of immediately.  By taking care of ourselves and our neighbors, we insure that the resources needed in Texas can get there.

Stay safe. Stay involved. #bergengivesback #bcvolunteers


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