I recently sent out holiday cards across the country, wishing people Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a great 2018. In the past, I have given guides for eating out and doing things in New York, or small tokens of appreciation. This year, instead of a holiday gift, I decided to focus on the needs created by recent natural disasters. I hope that you will consider helping as well.
I was able to go to Houston with UJA-Federation right after Thanksgiving, see things firsthand, and volunteer with an excellent organization there called Nechama. It was astonishing to witness what still needs to be done.
It is hard to describe walking a 250,000 square foot building that has been inundated, or to see a preschool reopening for the first time in four months. To hear stories of terror-filled homeowners watching water creep slowly higher until they had to run upstairs, ultimately having to be rescued. To hear neighbors talk about 70% of their entire neighborhood of Meyerland taking on water, non-profits who are considering moving locations rather than rebuild. Very moving and very hard to hear. Some of these homeowners are fortunate that they have the resources to rebuild, but what of the emotional impact? And worse yet, what of the people who simply won’t get enough money from FEMA to rebuild?
The tragedy of Houston is close to home, figuratively and literally, as my hometown of New Orleans was so drastically effected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. New Orleans will never been the same, and it seems that Houston will see similar changes. People are considering leaving, not rebuilding their lives again, after a third flood in three years. Psychologically, these events left people flattened.
What’s happened in Houston is even worse in scope than New Orleans: Nearly 200,000 homes were damaged, 300,000 cars destroyed, over 600,000 have applied for federal assistance. 39 counties in Southern Texas, nearly as many with sustained damage. Upwards of $150-200 billion in impacts. So many lives in flux. The scale is hard to comprehend. The devastation from Hurricane Harvey was historic, and its effects continue to wreak havoc on the communities of Houston and the island of Puerto Rico. As we spread out across the country and the world to spend time with family and friends, let’s keep these communities in mind. Many Caribbean islands may not rebuild for years. Catastrophic is not an overstatement.
There are some amazing organizations doing work with these communities, and you can help. Perhaps you already have, and I know that these Houstonians and Puerto Ricans are thankful. I am. The Red Cross and UJA (in New York and Houston) are two organizations helping, by providing basics, ongoing fresh food where there is still no electricity, clothing, shelter, medical assistance and care. The amount of work is staggering, the cost as much so.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. Let’s all be extra thankful for all that we have. -Scott