How to Help Harvey Victims on Labor Day

It's Labor Day — go help your neighbors.
It's Labor Day — go help your neighbors.
Photo by Jack Gorman

There has been an outpouring of support for Texans devastated by Hurricane Harvey, but with so many victims as well as nonprofits, shelters, government agencies and charities asking for help, what can you do, and where can you go, on this Labor Day to lend a hand?

The most immediate need for most of the larger, established entities is simple: money. The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, United Way, Direct Relief, Americares, Catholic Charities, the city’s Harvey Relief Fund, even J.J. Watt – all are asking for financial contributions so they can determine where that money is most useful. Most have made it simple to donate online or through text messages.

There’s also the charities that have pivoted toward disaster relief but are always in need of donations, like the Houston Food Bank, which is asking for cash donations as well as canned, ready-to-eat items, protein in pouches, peanut butter, snacks, toiletries, paper goods, and cleaning supplies. Those can be dropped off at 535 Portwall from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Texas Diaper Bank is also asking for cash and — you guessed it — diapers.

If you’re low on cash and prefer to donate your time on Monday, the larger entities likely won’t be an option. The Red Cross says it needs volunteers at its shelters across the city, but don’t plan on just showing up to the George R. Brown Convention Center. Volunteers must fill out registration forms online and typically hear back from Red Cross in 24 to 36 hours. Those who are approved must commit to ten days of work. Places like the Houston Food Bank, Catholic Charities and Convoy of Hope also require registration.

It's Labor Day — go help your neighbors.
It's Labor Day — go help your neighbors.
Photo by Jack Gorman

But there are still plenty of small relief centers that have popped up throughout the city in need of donations and volunteers. Most of these places are churches that have organized drives and community outreach missions. Below is a quick list of places in need of immediate, walk-up help:

Golden Acres Baptist Church in Pasadena is asking for a detailed list of items – toothpaste, deodorant, hygiene products, mini shampoos and conditioners, ziplock bags, canned food, Gatorade and children’s underwear sizes 2 through 16. The church is in need of volunteers starting at 9 a.m. and is receiving donations from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check out updated lists of needs on its Facebook page.

The American Legion in Crosby is sheltering about 50 people, many whom were forced to evacuate from the explosion of a nearby ammonia plant. Its most urgent need is plastic ware to serve and eat food. It is also asking for volunteers to help sort the gifts of clothes it has received.

The Community of Faith Church near Independence Heights in northwest Houston is asking for tools and cleaning products to help repair houses inundated by flooding. Battery-powered tools, crowbars, small generators, saws, boxes and containers, tarps – anything that can be used to gut and restore houses. Volunteers are asked to sign up for shifts on the church’s Facebook page.

Sugar Land First United Methodist Church is asking for nonperishable foods, cleaning supplies, diapers and wipes, baby foods, toiletries and water for evacuees. All those items can be dropped off at the Education Center of Sugar Land Methodist Church, and those wishing to volunteer can sign up online.

Second Mile Mission Center in Missouri City is asking for hygiene and personal care items; cleaning supplies like mops, buckets and sponges; socks and underwear; Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s gift cards; manual can openers; and work gloves. It does not need clothes except for plus-size women’s clothing and gently used tennis shoes. Volunteers are welcome, but most slots are filled at the moment.

Forge For Families, a community-enrichment center in Third Ward, is not asking for donations but says it will need volunteers once the Red Cross leaves its shelter, which it said could likely happen Monday. Follow on Facebook to find out more.

If you’ve got a boat, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office put out a call on Twitter for help last week, and the city of Port Arthur is asking for boats as well. Most of the flooding in Houston has subsided, but areas in western Houston are still underwater because of water release from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs.

Even if you don’t want to leave the house, there’s an option for you. Airbnb’s disaster response feature allows homeowners to rent their homes to the displaced free of charge until September 25.

Facebook and Twitter are good sources to connect with potential locations. Remember to do your due diligence, though. Charity Navigator and GuideStar both grade nonprofits and can provide detailed financial data for those interested in digging. If you’re overwhelmed by the options, VolunteerMatch.org is a great source to connect with nonprofits, charities and other small organizations looking for help.

Of course, you can always just lie on the couch and watch television all day, but considering Game of Thrones won't be back until 2019, maybe it's best to help in whatever way you can.


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