Over the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen our little slice of Florida in the news. Hurricanes aren’t uncommon, and typically, Floridians don’t bat an eye when it comes to hosting a “hurricane party.” (Yes, they’re things. Don’t ask.) But Hurricane Ian was a bit wilder than many in the Sunshine State expected. Truthfully, we all started sweating a little more when both Disney and Waffle House closed their doors for the storm. Ian dumped feet of rain across the state, flooding major metro areas and leaving lasting damage.
“Wait, why is a t-shirt company talking about hurricanes?!”
We know, it’s a little weird. However, UthStuph is a Central Florida business, and we’re passionate and proud Floridians. We also work with a ton of youth and church groups. We know how y’all work. You see a problem, your missions team immediately wants to travel somewhere and help. Hurricane Ian was a recent disaster that might’ve affected where your family vacations during the summer. We wanted to give some resources that will help groups do some real good in our backyard.
When disaster strikes, it’s often tempting for youth groups and church teams to jump in and help. On-the-ground relief is fantastic, but working with a reliable, safe organization is key to doing more good. Here are a few tips from our little Florida-based company on how groups can truly help affected areas:
Donate to grassroots coalitions.
Because Florida is no stranger to hurricanes, we’ve established a solid network of response teams that can work urgently to help with housing. The IanResponse.org fund is a collection of grassroots teams that came together in the wake of Irma. They’re stationed throughout Florida and often address the most in need when hurricanes strike. Consider donating to them, and they’ll redistribute the funds to whoever needs it most at the moment.
Look for food drive organizations already in progress.
For hurricane-affected areas, food is key. Between power loss and flooding displacement, people love being served a hot meal. There are organizations throughout Florida that focus on food — from food pantries to food distribution/pop-up kitchens. Get in touch with a local food pantry before hosting any sort of drive. This ensures that your group is meeting needs rather than providing excess food which drives might not be able to handle.
Pay someone’s bill.
Do you personally know someone who lives in our area? Ask them how the hurricane affected their lives. Ask if they know anyone who needs assistance, and with what. This is great for individuals looking to give back with simple gestures, like a grocery gift card for a family or an IKEA gift card for a household that lost their furniture.
Plan on doing long-term repair work, if anything.
It’s really tempting to hop in a car and look to DIY emergency response work. It can also be hard to see images on the news of flooding and disaster relief. Most building remodeling takes place a month to three months after the hurricane, so if you’re looking to do hands-on building, take a breath. We don’t need people coming down with their tool belts and trucks just yet.
If you’re ever in doubt about where to go to help people, check FEMA. They’re the first on the ground in affected states, and their website is constantly updated with organizations. Organizations looking to partner with FEMA directly should consider setting up an account. This can ensure that your organization is put on a list of reliable groups to reach out to for the next hurricane.