Hello my loves,
It has been a very long 2 weeks here in Southeast Texas. I know everyone knows about Hurricane Harvey (a storm that managed to be a Category 1, 2, 3, and 4 Hurricane, a Tropical Storm, and a Tropical Depression all in a week’s time).
Most of you know this has been a very tumultuous summer for me and I have been learning lots of lessons along the way. While navigating personal highs and successes, I’ve also been surrounded by family and community traumas and at times it has been really difficult balance all of those emotions. I feel like the world has been doing somersaults and I admit that I have felt a little tossed around.
It seems a little unexpected, but the 2 emotions I’ve been feeling the most are guilt and gratitude. I feel guilt and shame for being spared. Because my losses were so minor, because the people I love and care for are all safe and sound, and because I am surrounded by such support and have had so many reach out to take care of me and offer their homes and time and shoulders. Of course I feel thankful for all of these things as well, but there are so many who have lost so much. My heart has been broken by this storm and by seeing the devastation, watching people be airlifted out of their homes and knowing they will never return to them, talking to people who are being evacuated to far away cities where they don’t know anyone and have nothing, and feeling all of the stress and tension all around me. It has all taken a toll on my spirit.
BUT through all of that I also feel such gratitude and such love. It’s actually been kind of overwhelming and in all the times I’ve cried over the last 2 weeks, I would say every single tear has been shed in admiration for the world and the people all around me. I feel like these events and disasters can bring out the worst in people, but I haven’t witnessed any of that. I’ve seen the people around me and in our community and our country rise up. Everyone is doing their best to take care of each other and to open their hearts and their homes.
I catch myself just repeating “Thank You” all day long. Thank you to the universe for keeping me and my family safe. To my friends and loved ones who have extended their time, energy, talents, and pockets to help and support. To complete strangers who have risked their own safety for those in need. To every single soul who opened their hearts and decided to embrace love instead of hate.
I know it seems unlikely, but my heart is filled with so much hope, the beauty in this world seems too much to feel otherwise.
Of course, I am also so floored by the charity and kindness of my friends and strangers. One of my best of the best created a GoFundMe for me and the responses and donations that poured in have been the most incredible reminder of all the beauty, joy, and love that I am so lucky to have in my life.
I will never be able to say “Thank you” enough to every single person who donated, texted, called, took me in, offered me rides, and shared drinks with me. You all have made not just the storm, but the entire summer so much easier. You have lessened my stress and lifted my spirits and pulled me through.
Now onto what this blog was actually intended to be.
How to help.
I’ve had lots of people ask how they can continue to help and support in the aftermath of Harvey. There was such a large amount of devastation spanning such a large amount of the Gulf Coast, I’m still not even sure I can wrap my mind around it. But there are numerous organizations and people that are effecting real and beautiful change in Texas. So if you are inclined and curious, here are some of the charities and organizations that I recommend.
I’m sure there are even more that I am not even aware of, so if there is anything you feel like I left off, let me know about it in the comments.
- Undies for Everyone – Undies for Everyone provides new underwear to disadvantaged school children in the greater Houston area. They are singularly committed to the self-esteem, dignity, hygiene, and success of Houston area disadvantaged students by providing them underwear at the beginning of each school year.
- Heart to Heart International – Heart to Heart International strengthens communities through improving health access, providing humanitarian development and administering crisis relief worldwide.
They engage volunteers, collaborate with partners and deploy resources to achieve this mission.
- PBA (Professional Beauty Association) Disaster Relief Fund – Established in 1995 by the National Cosmetology Association, the Disaster Relief Fund assists salon professionals in rebuilding their lives; following the devastation of a natural disaster. Over five decades, the Fund has provided to professionals in times of dire need. The Funds provided are intended to offer quick cash for short-term, immediate needs; such as clothing, food, bills and more. The Fund is not intended for long-term rebuilding of salons.
- Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies – Portlight Strategies, Inc. facilitates a variety of projects involving people with disabilities, including post-disaster relief work. Through ongoing programs like their Getting It Right conferences, they are working to promote self-determination of needs and issues with respect to disaster preparedness and response. They foster community relationships with these agencies to promote inclusiveness in disaster preparedness and response plans and to demand provisions for transportation and shelter accessibility.
- SPCA – The SPCA of Texas is dedicated to providing every animal exceptional care and a loving home. They are putting every available resource behind assisting pets and people who have evacuated the Gulf Coast to the North Texas area right here in North Texas and beyond. In the meantime, we continue to rescue, heal and find homes for the pets right here in our backyard.
- South East Texas Food Bank – The SETX Food Bank works to eliminate hunger and inadequate nutrition in Southeast Texas. In the State of Texas, 1 in every 4 children lives in poverty and about 15% of the elderly in Southeast Texas live in poverty. Nationally, about 15 percent of the population is deemed food insecure, meaning they do not have guaranteed access to three meals per day. Locally, that number is even higher in the eight counties they serve.
- Feeding Texas – Feeding Texas’s mission is to lead a unified effort for a hunger-free Texas. We move millions of hungry Texans toward food security through a statewide network of food banks. They also strengthen the collective response to hunger through collaboration and scaling success and lead the public conversation needed to solve hunger in Texas.
- Texas Diaper Bank – Every year, the Texas Diaper Bank helps change the lives of 15,600 babies, seniors, and the disabled. We are able to distribute over 1.1 Million diapers every year through the generosity of you, our donors.
- The State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund – Many of our fellow Texans are in need of a helping hand. Texas Agriculture Farmers, Rancher, producers and agribusiness owners are rebuilding and working towards picking up the pieces after all of these natural disasters. As natural disasters continue to impact Texas farmers and ranchers, the need for donations continues
- Houston Undocumented Communities Flood Relief Fund – An estimated 575,000 undocumented immigrant families live in Houston and its surrounding suburbs. Many have lost it all. Undocumented immigrants may be eligible for Crisis Counseling or Disaster Legal Services, and other short-term emergency aid from FEMA. However without a social security number they don’t qualify for cash assistance.The rebuilding process is estimated to take years and cost billions. At this time it is imperative that we come together and collectively help rebuild and assist those most vulnerable.
- Teachers of Tomorrow – Through quality instruction and unparalleled support and guidance, Teachers of Tomorrow provides the most effective preparation for educators to make a meaningful difference in the lives of their students. Now that recovery efforts have begun, they’d like to lend a hand in helping teachers rebuild their classrooms.
- The Montrose Center Hurricane Harvey LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund – The LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund will be used to help individuals and families begin to rebuild their lives through counseling, case management, direct assistance with shelf stable food, furniture, housing and more. The Center’s dedicated case management team is on call to help homeless youth, seniors, people living with HIV, hate crime survivors, and those devastated by the storm.
- Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund – Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Ed Emmett have established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund that will accept tax-deductible flood relief donations for victims affected by the recent floods.The fund will be housed at the Greater Houston Community Foundation
- Southeast Texas Strong – Southeast Texas Strong is launching in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to help interested individuals sponsor families in need in the Golden Triangle area of Texas. (Chambers, Hardin, Jefferson, Newton, Orange, and Tyler counties) These areas are more rural and often poorer than Houston and immediately surrounding areas which are receiving much higher amounts of national media attention. Countless individuals have lost their homes so far.
(This is my county and community!)
- Wastebits, a waste management technology company, is enabling free access to its software platform to help with the coordination of recovery and cleanup efforts in areas affected by Harvey.
- The State Bar of Texas has a legal hotline to help people — specifically low-income Texans — with issues such as replacing lost documents and answering insurance questions. They also started a disaster relief volunteer form, which attorneys licensed in Texas can fill out here.
- You can even open your home to disaster victims through AirBNB. During and directly after a disaster, temporary housing for those who are displaced and for relief workers can be hard to find. Airbnb activates its community to support local and national efforts in addressing this need.
- Several local and national organizations are collecting donations for general disaster relief efforts, including the United Way, Americares, Salvation Army, Save the Children, Catholic Charities USA, United Methodist Committee on Relief, SBP,Global Giving, Direct Relief, Heart to Heart and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has set up a flood relief fund, backing the effort with his own $100,000 donation.
Again, thank you to each and every one of you. Your kindness knows no bounds.