For the past week, Hurricane Gustav has been wreaking havoc in parts of the Caribbean and the United States. According to www.NewsDay.com, 97 total deaths have been recorded so far, including six in New Orleans. The damage caused by floodwaters has not yet been calculated, and the number of people living without power has surpassed 1 million. As Gustav made its way toward New Orleans, the nation seemed to brace itself collectively. Fresh in their minds is Hurricane Katrina, which only three years ago barreled through the Big Easy, flooding 80 percent of the city and resulting in roughly 1,600 deaths. On top of the monumental damage were charges brought against both the local and national government, accusing them of failure to react quickly—and, more specifically, to aid the poor.
Though Gustav hasn’t had the detrimental effects of Katrina, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for the citizens of New Orleans. More than 2 million people fled their homes to seek refuge in shelters, gymnasiums and other temporary living situations. Mayor Ray Nagin, speaking on the issue, assured hopeful residents that their homecoming was “only days away, not weeks.”
Aside from the fact that Hurricane Gustav was mild in comparison to Katrina, many of the affected cities were far more prepared this time around. Supplies were on hand, and armed forces were deployed in the midst of the storm to aid those who had decided to stay behind. Levees and floodwalls that were annihilated by Hurricane Katrina have been holding up against the crashing waves, and New Orleans officials have expressed their “cautious optimism” that they will continue to fortify the city.
Organizations like Target and Lowe’s are extending helping hands, in the form of money and supplies, to victims of Hurricane Gustav—but there is still much need for relief for those affected by the hurricane. There are countless ways to get involved in providing medical care, food and other basic living necessities. Here’s a list of a few organizations on the frontlines of relief from Hurricane Gustav.
The Salvation Army
“We combat natural disasters with acts of God.” This is the first thing you’ll see on their website www.salvationarmyusa.org, and they certainly are doing their part to make sure that all people are cared for in times of need. The Salvation Army accept donations for things like hygiene kits, drinking water, first aid, missing persons support, as well as emotional and spiritual support. The organization also partners with Volunteer Match, offering practical ways to get involved with disaster relief in your local community. You simply type in your city on their website to find numerous ways of volunteering, giving and serving. In response to the hurricane, the website provides locations to drop off supplies, as well as opportunities to help feed, clothe and care for victims.
Serving with Citi Impact is a practical way to involve yourself in helping communities and people in need. A quick glimpse at their site reveals places to both donate and get involved. Aside from needing money for supplies, Citi Impact is requesting anybody with availability to help drive supplies to affected areas of the country as well as help with cooking, cleanup, and counsel.
The United Way
Perhaps the most well-known and widespread organization of all, The United Way is another organization offering myriad ways to get involved in the relief effort. They have set up donation packages for those affected by Hurricane Gustav, allowing donors to know exactly where their money is going. A $25 donation provides blankets for five people, a $75 donation covers a doctor visit and supplies, $350 will feed 25 people food for a day, $2,500 will send out a vehicle and drivers (as well as supplies) to places in need and $3,200 covers the annual maintenance costs of a deployed emergency vehicle.
Friends of New Orleans
Friends of New Orleans is a nonprofit that aims specifically to restore the Big Easy. All donations go directly to the city, and Friends of New Orleans accepts and encourages both monetary donations and volunteering time as a means to restoring the city and its surrounding parishes. Working mainly through neighborhood links and local partners, Friends of New Orleans offers many ways to directly channel your time and money into a specific area.
In the vein of organizations like The Salvation Army, Direct Relief is not only aiding victims of Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf, but also extending their services to victims in places like Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, among others—areas hit much harder by Gustav than parts of the United States.
Plenty of organizations are making strides in repairing the damages incurred by Hurricane Gustav. The important thing to remember is that there is still much need for money, time and prayer for those reeling from the aftermath. Every effort and every dollar can make a difference. It might not look like a new home—but even a pair of socks, a tube of toothpaste or a place to take a shower can go a long way toward helping someone—and showing them that they are not alone.