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As Hurricane Michael Moves Out, Community Organizations Rush to Help Florida’s Victims

17 Oct, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Multiple sports destinations were affected by the storm – and likely will need to cancel or reschedule events that were supposed to be hosted in various areas of the Sunshine State as well as adjacent impacted communities.

At the moment, that might be the least of the worries as residents struggle to get out from under the disaster wrought by Hurricane Michael, which swept in last week, bringing not just destruction but loss of life. The Mexico City Beach area was particiularly hard-hit but few excaped damage. Florida’s Division of Emergency Management notes that 13 counties had full or partial mandatory evacuations in place. Hotels in the areas with mandatory evacuations closed ahead of the storm’s landfall.

According to Floridadisaster.org, conditions continue to be dire, with widespread power losses and, naturally, homes and businesses damaged or destroyed. Some places may not have electricity or access to clean water for weeks. But as always, the outside community wants to help the affected region. Here are some ways:

GlobalGiving distributes donations to vetted local groups, as well as bigger organizations.

The American Red Cross is accepting money for food, shelter and "emotional support" for hurricane victims.

GoFundMe, the crowdfunding site, gives people the opportunity to either raise funds or donate to hurricane relief efforts.

The Salvation Army is providing thousands of meals throughout the state and says the best way to help is with a monetary donation.

Save the Children is mobilizing teams and supplies with a focus on the needs of children and babies affected by the storm.

The ASPCA continues to move animals out of affected areas and find shelter for pets left behind or separated from their owners in the chaos of the storm.

The Humane Society of the United States also has ‘boots on the ground’ in areas hit by the storm, and is working to move animals out of harm’s way.

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) is a site listing vetted charitable groups with relief efforts. A list of its members is here. Many organizations may have Hurricane Michael-specific efforts, so it is advisable to check in order to donate funds where they can do the most good.

In North Carolina, areas like Wilmington are still cleaning up after Hurricane Florence. The Wrightsville Beach Marathon has a page set up to allow runners in its 2019 event to start donating now.

Blood Donation: While out-of-the-area donations of blood through the Red Cross and various hospitals generally do not go directly to areas (like Mexico City Beach) affected by the hurricane, blood donation is always appreciated and is always welcome and always needed. To find a Red Cross blood drive near you, go here.

Please note that the Better Business Bureau has advised caution when donating to upstart charities. So-called storm chasers looking to capitalize on the disaster may launch crowdfunding appeals, according to the BBB. Those who see a suspicious campaign can now report it to the BBB Scam Tracker.

Various Services:

Facebook Safety Check: Facebook has brought its Safety Check feature back online so that those affected can give status updates for family and friends in outlying areas. Details about this feature are available here.

The American Red Cross’s Safe and Well site also provides the ability to check in and find missing individuals. 

Airbnb has activated its Open Homes program to give shelter to the people who have been displaced by the hurricane. It’s also waiving fees for people affected by the disaster. More details are available on the Airbnb website here.

Material Donations (Goods and Services): While many wish to directly donate clothing, cans of food, business services, pet food and more, disaster relief workers say those efforts are not what is needed at this time. NPR cautions that before donating, individuals should take the advice of Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

"This is not the time to be donating products or even services," he said. "That's frequently the urge, and most often that is the wrong thing to do. ...With the floods blocking off streets, when warehouses are not available, there's no place for these products — there's no place to store anything, there's no place to distribute anything. And that's going to be the case for some time." (And with many of Florida’s major airports closed or limited in their abilities, there are few ways to move material donations across the country.)

This article about items good-intentioned people donated unnecessarily (stuffed animals, half-used items from medicine cabinets, dilapidated shoes and even formal clothing) reinforces this message.

Instead, Ottenhof says, people should give money to groups they trust, and that have the ability to provide aid where it's needed most.

Some good portals for updates on the area include FloridaDisaster.org and FEMA, both of which are kept updated, and both of which include useful information for both hurricane victims and those who want to help. Visit Florida also has a hurricane-specific page listing conditions, including power outages, shelters and evacuation orders. 

Those attempting to reach the Florida Sports Foundation should note the office was closed because of the storm. Updates can be found on the website.

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