As Florida is facing the insanity of Hurricane Irma, social media has jumped into action with the standard knee-jerk reaction of posting Pray For Florida memes to accompany their ever-so-helpful thoughts and prayers. Afterall, it was thoughts and prayers that completely erased all bad things from the Earth before it.
Instead of just praying for Florida, there are some slightly more productive things you could do that the Sunshine State might appreciate much more.
5. Supplies. Y’know… for helping people, fixing homes, saving lives, and stuff.
There’s not been a moment in recent history that anyone has ever been fed or repaired a house using thoughts and prayers. People in Florida are losing everything they own, including the items they used to use to feed themselves and live in. Home Depot is amazing in these situations, and actually has a hurricane command center for just these moments (makes sense if you think about it). Send some of your Florida pals a Home Depot gift card, because they’re gonna need it. First responders like firefighters and paramedics are out there on the front lines doing the Lord’s work… maybe kick them a few bucks via crowdfunding site GlobalGiving. They have a special campaign set up for just this sort of thing. Of course, you can make blanket donations if you’re not sure where your money should go. United Way of Miami-Dade is a great, local, reputable charity that will put your $20 to great use, almost immediately.
4. Somewhere to stay for a week or so, preferably indoors and with a shower and laundry room
After a mandatory evacuation, it’s hard to sleep in a bed made out of prayers. It might feel more like you’re sleeping on nothing. Florida has so many hotels that Florida State University is the #1 college in the nation for Hospitality majors. The only problem is that when you evacuate a quarter of the state’s population, those hotels are going to be in short supply. Short-term home rental site Airbnb has a special site set up for home owners to open their homes to evacuees at no charge. Not local? You can still help out. Following a major disaster, people often forget victims need clean clothes. Finding a place to do a load of laundry can be darn near impossible when you’re in a disaster zone. Detergent giant Tide runs the Loads Of Hope program, bringing free laundry services and clean clothes to people in disaster areas. Donate to their efforts, or give your clean clothes to someone who needs them more than they need your prayers.
3. A safe place to bring their pets. Because pets.
You can pray for a dog all you want, but that still doesn’t fix the fact that they need evacuating too. Not to mention the fact that a lot of shelters simply aren’t equipped to house dogs and cats. This creates a Sophie’s Choice for a lot of pet owners, who have to decide what to do with the family pet. Contrary to what you read on Facebook, there is no law requiring shelters or hotels to take in your pets. The 2006 Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act just says that FEMA has to consider pets in their plans. So maybe instead of just posting on Facebook that you’re praying for the doggies and kitty-cats — you could give a few bucks to the ASPCA’s Hurricane Response efforts and help them ensure the safety of the four-legged evacuees.
2. Somewhere to live after this is all over and you’ve moved on to some other cause du jour.
This person is surveying the pile of hell that sits where their house used to be, following Hurricane Harvey. They need a house made out of something sturdier than your prayers. Irma victims are going to need the same. Not everyone has flood insurance partially because it’s expensive as hell and times are hard. Or they rent. Even after you’ve started praying for whatever issue pops up a week later, folks need somewhere to stay that isn’t a FEMA trailer. Habitat For Humanity exists for this very reason. Make a donation or pledge your time and supplies, and you’ll be helping someone rebuild their lives. Literally. Are you a small business owner? Maybe instead of praying for the victims, you could possibly hook them up with a job? Just a thought.
1. Replacements for all the school supplies teachers bought themselves and are about to lose
Kids need to get back to school ASAP following a disaster. It gives them a sense of routine. Most of what your kids use at school is not purchased by the school district or any other governmental entity. Teachers buy stuff like pens, pencils, paper, tissues, markers, and other basic needs — out of their own pockets. A huge chunk of their already ridiculously small salary goes to buying their own supplies. Rebuilding your life on a teacher’s salary is hard enough as it is, without having to re-purchase a few grand in school supplies. Classroom fundraising site DonorsChoose.org has opened a new campaign dedicated solely to replacing damaged or destroyed school supplies, books, furniture, and computers following Irma and Harvey. Teachers can’t reopen their classroom with your prayers and need something a little more tangible in order to educate the future.