On August 27, 2020, Hurricane Laura struck Cameron, Louisiana, as a Category 4 storm, producing 150 mph winds and destructing storm waves to recovering from previous storms like Harvey.  State officials at Texas and Louisiana ordered over 1.5 million residents to flee.

However, a few of the communities in the evacuation zones are among the weakest in their respective nations — forcing several residents to make unwanted decisions. Texas’ Jefferson County, which was in the path of this storm, has a poverty rate that is greater than 18%, higher than the national and state average, reports Texas Public Radio.

Besides, the complications of the storm are the continuing coronavirus outbreak. States have fewer shelters accessible and already-stressed medical systems. In actuality, some shelters were full before the storm, and officials were scrambling to secure more rooms for evacuees in hotels.

As the full scope of the damage begins to emerge, nonprofits and government agencies mobilize to give disaster relief support. Monetary contributions are essential for disaster relief organizations to finance recovery efforts, specialists say, and must be prioritized over contributing physical things, unless a company asks for certain things.

Here are twelve(12) organizations working on the ground or in a team effort with those in communities impacted by Hurricane Laura.

1. All Hands and Hearts — Smart Response

All Hands and Hearts
Image Source: allhandsandhearts.org

Founded in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, All Hands and Hearts focuses on both the instantaneous and long-term demands of communities and towns which have experienced a natural disaster. In the past, that is meant constructing earthquake-resistant schools in Nepal and making home repairs in Texas after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

The nonprofit possess a four-star rating, the highest available, with Charity Navigator, which assesses nonprofits on two significant elements: the nonprofit’s fiscal health and the integrity and transparency with which they manage funds.

2. Direct Relief

Image Source: directrelief.org

Nonprofit Direct Relief has a great history of helping those affected by hurricanes in the US by providing medical supplies and care. Most lately, it had been included in activities after Hurricanes Barry, Michael, and Harvey. The organization announced Wednesday that it is connected with over 80 partner health centers in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and coordinating efforts with primary care institutions and free clinics before Hurricane Laura.

3. Family Promise

A nonprofit focused on assisting homeless and low-income families. Family promise has seven regional programs in Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas standing by to provide shelter and help those affected. Family Promise has to set up a fund to directly assist families in the Gulf region affected by Hurricanes Marco and Laura.

4. Houston Food Bank

The Houston Food Bank said Wednesday it was already beginning to prep pallets and find partners to serve as disaster sites in Hurricane Laura’s wake. The nonprofit is also collecting cleaning supplies, water, and ready-to-eat-food. Along with monetary and physical contributions, Houston Food Bank is also accepting volunteers. They have some supplies, and you may volunteer here to help sort and organize the items.

5. Mercy Chefs

Image Source: mercychefs.com

The Virginia-based nonprofit Mercy Chefs concentrates on attracting professionally prepared meals for volunteers, victims, and first responders involved in natural disasters. A spokeswoman reports CNBC Make It that the staff intends to have up to three kitchens working and provide meal service to those suffered by Hurricane Laura. The nonprofit also accepts and works with local volunteers. If you are interested, sign up here.

6. Operation USA

Established in 1979, Operation USA specializes in disaster relief. On Wednesday, the organization reported that it had been mobilizing to provide aid through its established partnerships in Houston and New Orleans. Operation USA stated that contributions would help the nonprofit quickly deliver materials and cash grants to community-based associations affected.

7. Rescued Pets Movement

This Houston-based company is working to assist pets who were displaced by the storm. On Wednesday, the Rescued Pets Movement reported that they cleared out a shelter to make animals after Hurricane Laura passed. Rescued Pets is also encouraging residents to wait for the new cats and dogs who might require sponsorship and foster.

8. Save the Children

Save the Children has an emergency response group and local program staff in Louisiana and Texas who were mobilizing to assist displaced families get the crucial supplies they need, such as hygiene kits, diapers, blankets, and wipes. The company will be working together with local partners to help restore early learning facilities and child-care destroyed by Hurricane Laura, a spokesman reports CNBC Make It.

The organization holds a four-star rating with Charity Navigator.

9. St. Bernard Project (SBP)

Louisiana-based SBP is a nonprofit focused on minimizing the time it takes from when a tragedy strikes to recovery. The organization has teams staged in Houston and New Orleans, “prepared to deploy as soon as it is secure to do so,” SBP reported Wednesday. About 200 volunteers are pre-registered to help those impacted. Besides contributions, SBP says in-person and remote volunteer opportunities are available.

10. Team Rubicon

Image Source: teamrubiconusa.org

Established by Former U.S. Marines in 2010, California-based team, Rubicon’s military veteran aides, form emergency response teams that assist with disaster relief and recovery. Team Rubicon has three groups on the ground to evaluate Hurricane Laura’s initial damage.

Also, the organization has two dozen volunteers activated in Louisiana and Texas.  The Nonprofit holds a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.

11. Texas Diaper Bank

The Texas Diaper Bank States it’s thinking about providing feminine products, diapers, incontinence supplies, and hygiene kits to people in shelters in 20 Texas cities and people sheltering in San Antonio. The nonprofit is also collecting 1,000 kits with hygiene supplies, such as masks. The Texas Diaper Bank is taking monetary donations and supplies bought off the company’s Amazon wish list.

Charity Navigator gives this small nonprofit a rating of 100 from 100. Last month, Charity Navigator implemented a new rating system that ranks less developed and smaller nonprofits.

12. United Cajun Navy

Located in Louisiana, the United Cajun Navy is a nonprofit organization focused on disaster relief and rescue. The organization says it is deployed for Hurricane Laura, and along with monetary donations, is accepting water, generators, and gas. Those people who wish volunteers can join on the website.

Check Out Companies Before Donating

The simplest way to verify a charity’s validity is to look it up on a watchdog website like CharityWatch, Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Great Nonprofits. These websites rate nonprofits and allow you to discover more about the company and how contributions are spent.

Many small, community-based initiatives will likely also be reacting to the natural disaster, so they might not be rated. If that’s true, you can usually find information on their site about their efficacy and how funds are used. CharityWatch suggests only working with firms that spend 75 percent of the budget on program services. Additionally, they ought to devote no more than $25 to raise $100.

The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance States It’s better to stick to donating to experienced disaster relief organizations, especially immediately after a disaster occurs.

“Look if the charity has an on-the-ground existence in the affected areas,” the BBB recommends. “Unless the charity has skilled operations in the affected regions, it could be tricky to offer assistance quickly and efficiently. See whether the charity’s site or appeal clearly explains what the charity can do to address immediate relief needs and longer-term recovery requirements.”

When contributing to a campaign on GoFundMe and other crowdfunding alternatives, you need to have a clear understanding of where the contributions are going and what the money will be used for. Look closely at who’s collecting the funds and how they are related to the cause.

GoFundMe has a team that works to confirm each campaign and ensure the funds reach the intended recipient. If the funds aren’t delivered, GoFundMe provides a donor protection warranty.

If you suspect somebody is running a scam relief effort, you can file a complaint with the FTC or report it to your state regulator.

How to Support Hurricane Laura Victims

Hurricane Laura, among the strongest storms on record to hit America, devastated regions of the Louisiana and Texas coasts as it made landfall. Many fled their homes to escape the storm’s path, which has killed at least 26 people and left hundreds of thousands without electricity.

Many people did regard the evacuation orders and left, which is a fantastic thing since there could have been a lot more casualties.

As residents of Louisiana and Texas begin to rebuild, here is how you can help.

Before You Give

Hurricane Laura’s full effect is still being analyzed; hence donating cash is the easiest and most effective way to help. Organizations allocate money based on the community’s most urgent needs, which may change quickly.

But before donating money, do some research to ensure that the organization is reputable. You can use websites like Guidestar or Charity Navigator, which grade nonprofits on their efficacy and financial wellness. Or look at the Internal Revenue Service’s database to determine if an organization is qualified for tax-deductible donations. If you suspect a company or person is committing fraud, you can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud.

Local Organizations

The Cajun Navy, a nonprofit organization, citizen-led disaster response group, works to rescue people stranded and get the basic supplies. Its most pressing needs are rubber boots, cleaning materials, insect spray, bleach, gloves, wipes, masks, and disinfectants. You might also make a financial donation.

SBP was established in 2006 by a few in St. Bernard Parish that was disappointed with the slow compliance after Hurricane Katrina. This organization focuses on streamlining the recovery process, including fast rebuilding homes and rebuilding local companies, and supporting policies that help long-term healing. SBP (originally called St. Bernard Project) requests local volunteers and contributions, which will go to supplies for home rebuilding, and PPE to their staff members and other requirements.

The Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana is taking donations to be distributed to local organizations supporting relief efforts. The money goes toward fulfilling survivors’ basic needs, including food, shelter, and medicine, to assist long-term recovery.

The Houston Food Bank has lots of trucks packed with meals ready to dispatch once conditions allow. What it wants most are volunteers to help clean, sort, and pack the meals. The demand for food assistance in the organization has increased by almost 180 percent since the pandemic, a spokeswoman said. They expect demand rising even more due to this disaster—the best way to help the organization meet that need would be to donate money. Every $1, you donate supplies three meals.

In Texas, Austin Disaster Relief is looking for donations to get evacuees stayed temporarily into Austin hotels. It’s also distributing basic supplies such as toiletries, hygiene kits, and clothes.

Louisiana Baptists, a chain of 1600 churches, has instructed volunteers to prepare to clean up and feed the hungry. The organization has recorded the materials its requirements on its sites, such as rubber gloves, bleach, buckets, and other cleaning materials. It helps cash donations, also.

National Organizations

The Salvation Army has set up over 15 mobile feeding stations to assist first-responders and survivors across Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. You can contribute to its site to help provide food and other supplies.

The Red Cross has countless volunteers in Louisiana and Texas, providing medical services and assisting in relief efforts. Donations can be given on its website, or text the LAURA to 90999 to contribute $10. To protect survivors living in shelters from the coronavirus’s spread, the Red Cross won’t accept food, clothing, or other supplies.

Americares has set up a dedicated relief fund to encourage its deliveries of medicine, personal protective gear, or PPE, and medical supplies to disaster areas.

United Way of Southwest Louisiana has established a fund to support short- and long-term relief efforts. You can text LAURA to 40403 to contribute, or do this on their site.

All Hands And Hearts is another emergency response organization that deploys volunteers to disaster sites to clean, rebuild houses, and develop a long-term recovery program. You may contribute to its Hurricane Laura Relief fund or register to volunteer.

A Missouri-based firm, Operation BBQ Relief, brings barbecue meals to disaster sites to feed emergency health workers and homeless households. It’s currently running a fund-raiser to assist its efforts.

Mercy Chefs, which was established after Hurricane Katrina, provides meals to people affected by the storm. You may donate or sign up for a volunteer on their site.

GoFundMe has built a dedicated page for many fund-raisers supporting Hurricane Laura sufferers, whether generated by the affected families or other concerned citizens.  You can also contribute to Family Promise, a company helping to support those displaced or facing homelessness because of the storm.

Give Blood

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is working to rebuild its blood supply after being forced to shut a few facilities that fell in the storm’s path. If you’re in the Gulf Coast area, you can register to donate blood in 17 centers.

Post-Laura Hotel occupancy stays powerful in Baton Rouge, but for how long?

As expected, the addition of Hurricane Laura evacuees and first responders fostered hotel occupancy in the Capital Region to greater than 90 percent between Aug. 26, the day before the effective hurricane made landfall, and Aug. 30.

The data, given by Visit Baton Rouge from STR, validates what many in the beleaguered hospitality industry had predicted as the storm was approaching the state’s coastline, and helped increase total occupancy rates 73.5 percent for the week of Aug. 23-Aug. 29.

For most of the summer, occupancy has been reaching slightly over 50%.

Executives say the sudden boost in business has been going well and that the largest obstacle local hotels face is the inability to plan for the long and short term.

“There is an uncertainty with the most natural disasters about how long the rise in occupancy will continue,” says Scott Michelet, Crowne Plaza General Manager, who also serves as president of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association. “Occupancy will remain pretty great for at least another week, but we’re unsure how far beyond that. It is a chess game daily.”

Although not necessarily commensurate with the increase in hotel occupancy, restaurants have seen an uptick in their business. That’s because lots of the initial responders and builders staying in local hotels are leaving early every day to visit affected regions and do not return until late at night.

“First responders don’t have much chance to do anything while they are here because they invest so much time on the street,” Michelet says.

However, Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer says anecdotally he has heard from many downtown restaurants packed to 50 percent capacity, the maximum allowed under the state’s stage two guidelines.

“We’ve noticed a lot more people out on downtown streets,” he says. “The weekend was crowded. It has been nice.”