Like many of you, I’ve been glued to The Weather Channel and constantly refreshing the news as I tracked the path of Hurricane Irma over the better part of the last week. As a resident of the East Coast of South Florida, there was a time when Irma was heading straight for my town as a category 5 hurricane. I was fortunate to be able to get out with my animals and husband and seek refuge at my family’s home in New Jersey ahead of the storm, but many of my friends were in no position other than to stay and ride out the storm. I’m also incredibly fortunate that the wrath of Irma mostly seems to have missed Delray (waiting on updates about my home), but so many people were not as lucky. My heart breaks for all of those in the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, the parts of Florida that were less fortunate, and all who have yet to feel the impact of this storm. For all of you looking for ways to help, I thought I’d share what I’ve found so far:
- Florida needs 1,000 volunteer nurses to help at special-needs shelters. Nurses can email: HelpFL@FLhealth.gov.
- Officials are seeking other workers who have a “specialized healthcare skill.” Such workers “would be incredibly helpful,” a spokesperson with the Florida State Emergency Operations Center tells NPR.
- With hundreds of emergency shelters in operation, volunteers are needed to staff them. You can sign up online with the state-run Volunteer Florida and receive shelter training or call 1-800-FL-Help-1. Officials say more than 17,000 Floridians have already signed up to volunteer.
- The American Red Cross is on the ground, having already deployed about 1,000 volunteers, but it is asking for more to serve food, load and unload trucks and set up facilities, among other duties.
Airbnb, the online rental site, lets hosts in the region offer their homes at no charge to Irma evacuees.
If you’re not in a position to volunteer or give shelter, there are still ways you can help. The following organizations are accepting donations to assist those impacted by Irma, including children and dogs.
- Red Cross: The Red Cross has mobilized its second massive hurricane response in two weeks – aside from its response to help those impacted by Harvey, the Red Cross is now raising money to help people affected by Irma. Relief efforts stretch from the U.S. Virgin Islands through Florida to the mid-Atlantic region. Help people affected by Hurricane Irma by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word IRMA to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
- UNICEF: More than 10.5 million children live in Caribbean countries exposed to the damage of Hurricane Irma, including 3 million under the age of 5. UNICEF puts children first in emergencies. The organization is on the ground with equipment for water treatment and hygiene, provisional shelters and education kits, and more to help ensure that affected children and families can get clean water, that there are safe spaces for them, that education and health services can continue, and that basic humanitarian supplies are distributed.
- GoFundMe: GoFundMe has a page of options for donating to those impacted by Irma. Scroll through to see how you can help.
- Global Giving: GlobalGiving is the largest global crowdfunding community connecting nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country. GlobalGiving prioritizes local organizations over the long term, but often steers money toward larger entities like Save the Children or the International Medical Corps during the early days of disaster response. It’s well-regarded by charity watchdogs and carefully vets the local organizations that it funds.
HELP THE ANIMALS:
- Best Friends: If you’re an animal lover like me, you probably know that the pets need our help right now as much as the people impacted by Irma. Best Friends pledges to spend every penny of your Hurricane Irma gift to help reunite pets with families, help find homes for animals turned in at shelters, and help rescue groups and shelters in Florida and other areas affected by Hurricane Irma reestablish their operations.
- ASPCA: While the ASPCA readies its response to Hurricane Irma, it remains on the ground in Texas continuing search-and-rescue, managing an emergency animal shelter, and working to reunite families with their displaced pets. The organization plans to expand its operations to areas impacted by Irma to provide the same assistance to help displaced animals.
*To make sure you are giving to a legitimate and effective charity, check whether it has been rated or accredited by an organization like Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or the Better Business Bureau. These might not cover smaller, community-based charitable organizations. But you can read useful tips about choosing a charity from the Federal Trade Commission. (From The New York Times)