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How we can really help disaster victims

The hurricane that hit the Carolinas and beyond last week left devastation via heavy rain and storm surges in its wake. Flooding is curre…

The hurricane that hit the Carolinas and beyond last week left devastation via heavy rain and storm surges in its wake. Flooding is currently causing the most damage. Those of us unaffected were able to go on with our daily routines, but there are thousands left with a new state of mind today, as well as a lot of clean-up, loss, structural and emotional damage.

No matter the category of storm, what a disaster leaves behind is incomprehensible unless you’ve been through it. Even the video you might see on the nightly news can’t paint the full picture.

After every natural disaster, the troops rally to help. We collect clothing, bottled water and nonperishable goods to ship off to the site of our choice to help aid in disaster relief. Many of us walk away after that, thinking we did our best and moving along with our lives.

Sure, we’ve done a great thing giving our time and resources. But are we doing the right thing? Could we be doing better? Did you know that many disaster relief agencies have to turn away disaster relief donations due to logistics like shipping, disbursement and storage? Many of our best intentions fall by the wayside because we need to stop and listen. We need to take the time to hear what the true needs are, and then we can act.

In the meantime, there are ways to make a difference.

  1. Donate money to a variety of programs – The American Red Cross being the most prominent. You can also look up programs local to the disaster-affected area by searching the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) state and territory members list.
  2. Volunteer to raise money – It is as simple as asking your fellow church members, neighbors, co-workers and friends. Simply put, money can do the most good in helping those affected by a natural disaster.

Other ways to help? Give blood. Volunteer your time and energy. But disaster relief agencies would prefer you don’t just show up. They ask that you avoid running into disaster areas to help because it complicates efforts and distracts from tasks at hand.

Most of all: Don’t forget. Just because the worst is over and cleanup is underway doesn’t mean complete recovery is a given. Volunteer or donate in coming weeks and months, well after the storm has passed.

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