The devastation in Houston and surrounding cities following the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was heartbreaking, and as residents began to try to pick up the pieces, another storm, Hurricane Irma, threatens the nation with even more destruction—this time in Florida and surrounding areas.
Being touted as a "nuclear hurricane," the Category 5 storm has already ripped its way through the Caribbean, shattering the island of Barbuda and nearly all of the structures there. Now, Florida's coastal cities have issued mandatory evacuations so that they can get as many residents out before it's too late. And on Irma's heels comes Category 4 storm Hurricane Jose, which is making its own way toward the Caribbean islands.
As Americans come together to aid the victims of the natural disasters, there are few things to keep in mind about your options for lending a hand. Below are five approaches to consider when you're not on the front lines. Here's how you can start:
1. Give money to charities
Money is key to help hurricane victims get back on their feet, but choose wisely. Do your research and make sure that the charities you give funds to pass that money along to the victims—and not just a small percentage of the funds.
2. Volunteer your time
If you are close enough to the affected area, do what you can to help. Sign up with local nonprofit organizations that are helping on the ground, find out how you can visit shelters to help brighten spirits, spend time with victims and help them find resources to get back on their feet.
3. Found your own crowdfunding campaign
Rather than send an individual donation to a charity, make a bigger impact with a larger lump sum. You can choose a reputable charity, a local organization, or fundraise for specific local families who need help.
4. Donate Needed Goods
Products like diapers, baby wipes, clothes, shoes, undergarments, toiletries, canned goods, and bottled water are just a few of the supplies that families need right now. Blood banks and centers may become low on supplies: Watch for calls for increased donations.
5. Don't forget about the animals
Animals are often displaced during hurricanes—and in need of supplies and shelter as well. Look into local as well as national animal rescue organizations for ways to help, and consider adopting displaced animals as well.