Hurricane Harvey was the first major storm of its kind to hit the U.S. in over a decade. Experts hadn’t seen the amount of destruction in the area since 1970 when Hurricane Celia crashed into the coast. Unprecedented damage on a massive scale has left locals overwhelmed and under-supplied. FEMA has responded to the region, and the area has been federally declared a disaster zone.
Assessments are still being made as to how much the damages will cost, but Governor Greg Abbott has said that it might reach $180 billion, making it the most financially destructive storm in this country’s history. Government agencies are assisting people financially and providing temporary housing for some whose homes are uninhabitable from flood damage.
Businesses are also stepping up to help the community. Corporate donations exceeded $160 million by late September, and companies from all over the country are continuing to donate supplies and food to victims of the storm. The Dow Chemical Company Foundation pledged $1 million to local nonprofits, and the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund will match employee donations.
Jim McIngvale is a Houston local and owner of Gallery Furniture stores. He converted his mattress businesses into a temporary shelter for victims of Harvey and intends to help anyone in need. Also known as Mattress Mack, his selfless actions are a great example of how the community is coming together to help those hurt by the storm.
NRG Energy is a Houston company that gave back $1 million to the community through several donations to different organizations on the ground. Among the groups they gave to were the Greater Houston Community Foundation and the JJ Watt Foundation Houston Flood Relief Fund, with another million scheduled to go towards rebuilding local businesses.
Private donations reached $350 million just weeks after Harvey hit, leaving organizers with the challenge of distributing the funds. Celebrities from Kevin Hart to Miley Cyrus to JJ Watt have all opened their wallets and made significant contributions. Leonardo DiCaprio donated $1 million himself, and many others have joined the cause.
The first round of the public Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund was distributed earlier this month, and over $7.5 million was disbursed amongst several organizations. Over the coming weeks, another round will be released, and nonprofits are encouraged to apply to receive this private funding.
Not all donations were welcomed, however. Houston Councilman Dave Martin has voiced his criticisms of the Red Cross’s response as “inept” and “unorganized”, and urges anyone who is willing to donate to send their money elsewhere. In 2010, the organization came under heavy fire when it was revealed that they mishandled over $500 million in donations, but did next to nothing for the people of Haiti.
Every donation counts, and so far, the recovery process is off to a good start. The next several months will be busy for the Gulf Coast as it tries to get things back to normal. If you are interested in donating, the best thing to do is give it to a good organization that you can trust to use your money for good.