When I used to think of Wildfires I used to think of acres of dry grasslands and forest being burned to the ground. I never used to associate it with Homes and Families.
Then the 2003 Wildfires changed that for me. It was the first fire that affected someone I knew personally, a home that I had visited and enjoyed or so I thought.
"Oh, Toni don't you remember such and such, we visited them back in '96, They lost their home and some horses".
My friend went on and on about how many people we knew that had been affected over the years.
That was an Uh-oh moment for me... Wildfires were no longer solely about trees, vegetation and wildlife for me. My thinking was forever changed.
WHAT TO DO!
My next thought back in 2003 was what I could do to help. I then decided to help another long time friend (whose name I won't mention, til I clear it with her) and she in turn was able to help three other families, she had the space in her home and her heart. One family stayed on until their house was rebuilt, (they have had to run from the wildfires again.)
I think of Kathy & Corina McGraw and their family. I have never met them in person, but I formed a spiritual bond with them here on AR. I lived those moments when Kathy couldn't contact Corina with her. Stopping constantly during my day and Thanking God for keeping them safe and asking him to open the lines so that Kathy could have her faith confirmed by Corina herself. See these wildfires were no longer a news event for me. I was now worried about Kathy, Corina and the kids and many others in my extended family. Being here on the East coast feeling so helpless but empowered in my prayers and faith.
After Katrina, I also had a total .change of perspective on Charities. I already knew that it worked to help someone with the will and capability of helping others. So I knew that would serve those in need better. OK Red Cross, United Way? Nah! I thought back to long ago at the age of nine when we lost our home and how little support we received from the Red Cross. Things hadn't really changed in all these years had they?
We always wonder when we donate if our dollars will reach those in need. Katrina proved to me that they usually don't, save for a few very hardworking charities filled with volunteers whose salaries are not a part of my donation.
When these recent Wildfires came about our church collected funds and we sought a resource to donate our efforts to. Sadly, the two charities that were being mentioned were the last choices on our list. So our church found a group that asked us to not send money but specific items that were needed by families. Our wonderful committee made it happen, we had the shipping fees donated, what a blessing! (dang it I don't have the name of the Charity here with me)
When looking to make a difference for those in need. (I refuse to call them victims, but Victors, for they are still here) take a little time.
- Try choosing a specific community or area to support
- Identify a need and help fill it
- Look to Grassroots organizations, churches and synagogues that know the people in their community and have identified specific needs.
- Offer your support, no donation is too little.
- Ask! Some people are too proud or overwhelmed to ask for help, but will accept it when offered.
A lot of people doing a little will go very far. $1 from a million people is 1 million dollars. Just try and make sure it is truly going to help someone.
I am not blasting the Big Charities, they serve their purpose. I don't want emails from them please!
But when we were burned out of our home when I was a little girl, the Red Cross put us in a hotel for the first two nights. It was great having shelter but I would've jumped for joy to have a toothbrush when I woke up that morning. My panties hadn't dried yet from washing them late that night and I cried. I had no books, no clothes save the nightie I had on when I ran out and slippers. My mother had to leave me in the hotel room to go buy me and my brother some clothes and pick up necessities. My brother went to get us something to eat and they wouldn't let him back up to the room. So I was homeless, half naked and hungry (he had the food).
God sent us Angels during those times, not the many people that my Mom had helped over the years. We always had extra seats at our dinner table, or she was sending one of us to give someone something. The help we received was from wonderful strangers, that made some of those times the most vivid memories of my childhood. I'll never forget the lady at the clothing store (Ms Anna) who picked up the phone and asked her boss if she could donate some clothing for a family (she had overheard a conversation that my Mom was having with another customer) or the bus driver (Mr William) who used to wait for me to cross the street to catch the City Bus if I was running late as I had to travel 7 miles on the city bus to school every day at the age of nine for about four months. (The looks of the other passengers on their way to work, priceless). Nothing you do to help others is too small.
If you know of anyone who is doing the real work in these communities, the ANGELS, Please BLOG ABOUT THEM! We won't hear about them on the news, but we know that the real help comes from average folks doing extraordinary things, not from the huge charities. How can we help them if we don't know they exist?
If you know someone who is housing families, (there are some who have two or three families sharing their homes) Drop them off a care package. Fill up the gas tank of someone who is donating the use of their pickup to help others salvage the ruins of their homes.
Most importantly, if you are able donate your time.