Tips for Helping Your Neighbors After a Disaster

This month we marked the 16th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack on our nation. At the same time, our neighbors in Florida, Houston and other parts of the country and American territories were severely impacted by hurricanes. I was in Dallas when Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area. I don’t know if it was because I was only a few hundred miles from the storm, but I felt as helpless as I did on September 11. Just like that day, I was glued to the news. I was reminded that how we deal with crisis can make or break us. As I watched the aftermath of the hurricane, I witnessed the worst mother nature and the best of humanity. I am impacted by both, but inspired by the best.

When I returned home, I knew I needed to do something to help the hurricane victims. Writing a check didn’t feel like enough for me. Luckily, my Google search efforts led me to a church in my area that was collecting supplies to deliver to Houston. Supporting their effort felt right for me. (For related reading, see: 5 Costliest Hurricanes in U.S. History.)

How to Help: Do's and Don'ts

It is a natural urge to jump in and help when disaster strikes. Whether it’s to help hurricane victims or any other sudden tragedy, here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

  • Sadly, there are scammers that take advantage of the emotions and intentions of good people. Do not give money to an organization before checking their background. A great place to start is
  • Do not respond to telemarketing requests or any “organization” that asks for personal data such as a Social Security, driver’s license number or birth date over the phone or by email.
  • If you want to contribute money, go through well established non-profit organizations like the Goodwill, Rotary International (or Rotary Clubs local to the disaster site), Salvation Army or Red Cross. Ask if your donation is earmarked for the cause that interests you.
  • When donating to any charity, do your homework. Start by finding out how much of your donation will go directly to help the cause. Well run organizations should not spend more than 20% of funds raised on administrative needs.
  • Participate or organize a local blood drive.
  • When donating supplies, make sure there is a trustworthy delivery point with the ability to distribute to the needy in a timely manner.
  • If you want to volunteer your time and talent, do not show up unexpectedly as you could create more of a burden. Check the website for information on what is needed and how you can get involved. You will find valuable resources and information on the best way for you to get involved and make a difference.

As we keep our neighbors affected by recent hurricanes in our thoughts and mark the 16th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, may we never forget the lives lost, the bravery of many and the widespread outpouring of compassion and generosity shown toward the victims and their families. (For related reading, see: Prepare Your Finances to Handle Natural Disasters.)