Hurricane Irma left a swath of destruction in its wake as it tore through communities in the Caribbean Islands, the Florida Keys and then mainland Florida and South Carolina. Its raging winds and rain pummeled Cuba and the Caribbean as a category 5 hurricane, killing more than 40 people. At least 60 people were killed by the then category 4 Irma as it flooded major population centers, including Charleston, South Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida.
One of the most soul-stirring outcomes, and perhaps the only good news in the story of these hurricanes has been the outpouring of kindness and eagerness to help. Ordinary citizens performed extraordinary feats to save perfect strangers. Without citizen action, it is highly likely that many more deaths would have resulted from these devastating hurricanes.
This is the perfect time to get involved in assisting the victims of Hurricane Irma. Once storms move on and the media shifts its attention to the new story of the day, it is easy to forget about what happened. In the interim many fraud fundraising drives have been initiated, as well as charity events or calls to action by fraudsters.
If you want to help the victims of Hurricane Irma, there are four basic categories of assistance that are required: blood, money, shelter, and time. Here are a few ways to get involved.
If you would like to write a check or give a cash donation to assist the victims of Hurricane Irma, carefully identify a legitimate list of public and private sector relief agencies. For instance, United Way has several chapters active in the impacted Florida communities. United Way of Miami-Dade and United Way of Broward County, which has partnered with the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, are in need of donations to enable them to provide direct relief to hurricane victims. The Miami Foundation has initiated a special fund that is assisting victims of Hurricane Irma in Florida and in the Caribbean Islands, particularly Barbuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands, both of which were assaulted again by Hurricane Maria.
All Florida religious institutions are involved in the effort to provide basic services to Irma’s victims, including Catholic Charities, Muslim Federation and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. These charities need your financial support to deliver food, clothing, and water to hurricane victims. Also delivering food to hurricane victims is Food for the Poor, a nonprofit with an established track record of providing food to the poor in the Caribbean and Latin American communities. It is now fulfilling the same role closer to home. Many other Florida nonprofits are engaged in the effort, such as Bridge to Hope which is focused on the most vulnerable of the hurricane’s victims—the elderly, homeless and chronically impoverished.
If you have space in your home there are two amazing platforms where you can offer housing for Irma’s victims. You can put a listing on Airbnb or HomeAway, both of which have set up special portals for people to list their homes for the benefit of hurricane victims. You can also alert the Red Cross and other foundations operating in the Florida area if you have a spare room or you are a landlord and have empty apartments.
If you want to volunteer your time and help rebuild communities, get in touch with the Red Cross. Additionally, all of the relief agencies listed above need volunteer manpower to deliver food, diapers, bottled water, clothing, toys, and other supplies to the victims of Hurricane Irma, many of whom are still in shelters.