In 2016, the Great Flood came through and wiped out 98% of my town. I was part of the 2% left dry. Not only were people’s homes underwater, but their businesses were too. Which meant no home, no work, and we all know insurance and FEMA take a hot minute. The horror stories of “big box charities” were rolling out. I felt frozen in the fear of doing something wrong, but I wanted to help. I just jumped in with a 13-month-old on my hip I made a live video on Facebook. I requested donations to go, delivering snacks and groceries door to door. I would head to the churches, pick up cleaning kits and deliver with food. That turned into a daily Facebook Live updating about needs, working with three different out of state charities, and my carport stacked to the top with donations. It was awesome and overwhelming. I am still so proud of what my daughters and I did during this time. I made a lot of mistakes and would have done things a lot different.
How can you help?
If you can’t spearhead or get out in the streets to demo, clean, or hand out donations, you can still help. Offer to babysit. Make bag lunches. Do laundry. There is so much laundry to do. Share information and resources you come across. The saddest part of the flood was how many resources were out there that no one knew about.
Looking to spearhead an effort? Make sure you have the capacity to store items. Amazon wish lists are your best friend and allow people to donate large and small, plus you can update it with your exact needs. Use community groups on Facebook to get an idea of needs. It’s okay to focus only on one community (i.e. animal shelters, new moms, etc).
Most importantly, when you are spearheading an effort to help: When people ask what they can do, tell them. It’s important that you take care of yourself as well as you would like to take care of others. As moms we tend to ignore ourselves to care for others. It’s a beautiful quality, but if you are not careful, there will be nothing left for you.
What should you donate and how? Keep your toys, used stuffed animals, and junk. I know you have a good heart, but it gets in the way. It is just more to throw away. Label your bags / boxes of clothes with men, women, girl, boy, baby and sizes included. This helps those that will be handing them out tremendously.
Churches will be there 24/7. Call them, see how you can donate. Most already operate solely on donated funds just to keep the lights on, so in a time of devastation for their community and members, financial donations if you are able are so welcome.
Most requested donations when I was helping were: cleaning supplies (including trash bags, lots of trash bags), air mattresses, generators, gas, bottles of water, sheets, blankets, toothpaste, toothbrush, socks (new), underwear (new), bandages, antibacterial soap, first aid cream, Benadryl, sunscreen, bug spray, towels, baby formula, diapers, wipes, baby food, gift cards to gas stations, Wal-mart, Target, Amazon and more. If you know someone helping, ask if they have an Amazon wish list. That is an easy way you can help with the click of a button.
Let your kids help.
Kids have incredible hearts and are so aware of what is going on. My 10-year-old at the time wanted to raise money to buy a child a toy. I helped her develop a plan for a lemonade stand. She was able to buy four kids a toy. She helped me sort bags and “inventoried” donations for me. It was an incredible sense of pride she had. My 13-month-old came along. I watched her share her juice with families who were helping and brought joy to the families as she cooed and laughed. My point, don’t ever for a second think that your babies won’t make a HUGE impact.
Know that your neighbors in Louisiana are sending all our love, prayers, and manpower your way. We know there are a ridiculous amount of emotions going through you right now, but I hope you take comfort in knowing Louisiana is preparing our masses to help. I can’t scroll in my feed without a call out for supplies as organizations like the Cajun Navy roll out ready to help. In the infuriating words of every wise ole’ friend, this too shall pass.