Friday, September 19, 2008

Hurricane Ike and Aftermath

Thanks to all of you who emailed wondering how we are the kids were affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Thankfully (for us) Ike turned north before reaching San Antonio. Instead of 70mph winds that had been predicted early in the week, last Saturday was the hottest day of the summer at our house with the thermometer reading over 100 degrees and not a bit of breeze. It felt as if all the energy in the atmosphere had been sucked into the storm.

After we left the counselors office Friday afternoon Charlie asked me in an excited voice with an edge of concern, "Miss Stephanie, did you know that there is a storm in the Golf Course?" When we arrived at our house he jumped from the car and ran inside to ask Randy the same question.

As we did with Hurricane Gustav a few weeks prior, we assured the kids that the "golf course" was a long ways away, that we would be safe, and most importantly, we live on the top of a hill and no water will come into our house - ever!

Much of Houston and surrounding areas are still without power and Galveston was pretty much washed away. When people evacuate they think (or hope) that they will be able to return home in a few days. I try to imagine myself sleeping on a cot in a shelter and wonder how people do it for weeks on end with no privacy and none of the conveniences of home.

The lucky few who have savings to get them through or insurance to help offset the costs can find a hotel. Some stay with friends or family, but you know what they say about having company for more than a few days. No matter what the situation, it becomes a trying time for everyone and soon nerves are on edge.

If you want to help, local shelters can always use volunteers. The San Antonio and Houston chapters of the Red Cross are the places to contact. Volunteers will be needed as long as the shelters are open to those who cannot return home. Whether it is mopping or floor or lending an ear to someone who needs to talk, the volunteers make the shelters possible.

The local news asks for donations to the San Antonio Food Bank as they are primarly responsible for feeding thousands of evacuees. The best way to donate to them is with cash, as their needs change daily for food and personal items such as underwear that needs to be purchased.

The Houston Food Bank has been serving those who have no electricity so they can have clean water, ice and essentials.

Your church may have disaster relief services or funds, or there are numerous organizations such as the Red Cross who provide support and services.

The vast majority of the responsibility of caring for evacuees falls on the community that takes them in. It is the volunteers and the donations that make shelters, food and comfort available to those who have lost their homes or cannot return to their homes yet. Please think about what you can do to help them out.

It was through volunteering at a shelter following Hurricane Katrina that we met the Thornton family and we now have the joy of "our kids". While we never expected to find this family that we "adopted", we never know what life we may touch.

Until next time . . .


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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Disaster Relief - What is the best choice?

Talking to "our kids" about Hurricane Gustav turned out to be an interesting and at times rather entertaining discussion. We knew that if they had not already heard about another storm in New Orleans, they soon would, as they hear everything. We felt the best thing to do was to have a little meeting about it so that we could confront any fears that they felt. We explained that "mandatory evacuation" meant that everyone had to leave. If they did not have a car, they could take a bus to a safe place.

Annie: "What about my baby sister?" (yes, their mom had another baby!)

Marquel: "Will Chantal (their mom) come to San Antonio?"

Charlie: "Girl, don't be crazy. You know Father won't let her come here."

We listened to their comments and the underlying concerns and did our best to reassure them that their sister, mom, grandpa and grandma, great grandma and cousins would be OK.

Now that Gustav is dissipating, there are 3 new storms to be concerned about. You will hear lots of invitations over the next few weeks to give to charitable causes.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina and our resulting mission project, we would have thought of the most high profile organizations, Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.

Following Hurricane Katrina we learned things we had never considered. In the aftermath of Katrina, millions and millions of dollars were given for the victims. This money did not necessarily get to the victims. If an organization's main focus is to see that immediate needs are met, that is where the money is spent, with any excess staying in their bank account for the next disaster.

So how should you decide what is the best contribution to make? First you must consider that money is not the only donation choice. Do you have some time you can donate to a shelter? You might be good at cooking, scrubbing floors, or lending an empathetic ear.

You might be part of a church or civic organization that could use your donation of time or money. There are still many churches sending volunteers to help the gulf coast rebuild from Katrina. They need cash donations to be able to send those volunteers and purchase supplies needed.

Everyone has their gifts and talents. Decide what you have to offer. As the giver, you can do a little research and decide what would be the best option for you.

Last night on the local news they talked to a single mom who had evacuated to San Antonio with her small children. After living through Hurricane Rita, this time she knew had to leave home. She had spent every penny she had on gas to get here. Now how was she going to get home? And she may have been wondering how she would feed her children, and keep up with rent and other necessities.

As we have learned, the trauma and tragedy of these disasters lingers on long after the storm is gone, and in ways that we sometimes don't think of or comprehend. It does no good to think "well, that lady should have planned for something like this". We have to understand that she is most likely doing the very best she can with what she has, just as any of us do.

As I thought about any recommendations I might have, I pulled up a website set up by the RNC - I think this is an excellent place to start. One of choices is Aidmatrix - where you can choose a state and find links to all kinds of organizations who can use donations of cash or time.

While Red Cross is great at immediate relief, there are 2 church groups that I would recommend for the on-going rebuilding efforts. I have personal experience and knowledge of both of them:

Lutheran Disaster Response
Adventist Community Services

As you go about your daily routine, try to stop and remember those who are not as fortunate as you are. When you are at the grocery store, purchase a gift certificate of what you can afford for the local food bank. They are always in need of cash.

Maybe your church has a family or cause they are supporting. What do they need?

Give some thought to your giving - and you will be blessed in the long run! We know we have!