08/30/2012 08:27 am ET Updated Oct 30, 2012

Making A Difference: The World of Giving - How to Help Hurricane Isaac Victims

Right now we don't know the magnitude of the devastation from Hurricane Isaac. We do know it has come ashore twice and is very slow moving. While the levees are holding, it is the overall flooding that is of concern now. Many people are wondering what they can do to help. They remember the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago and want to do what they can to help those living in the affected region.

Here are some relatively easy ideas and suggestions to consider. It is important to remember there are three stages or phases to most natural disasters. They are Rescue, Relief and Recovery... and all three need your help!

Rescue Phase
Currently we are all focused on rescuing those who might be in harm's way; to help those who chose to stay behind or have found themselves in the middle of a disaster they never imagined. When this happens, it usually means people are leaving everything they have in order to save their and their loved ones' lives.

How can you help?
Right now during the Rescue Phase it is important to ensure that those most affected by the disaster have food, clothing and shelter. Consider these nonprofits which are among the first responders in addition to local police, firefighters, EMT workers, etc.:

• American Red Cross: They have deployed 2,400 Red Cross disaster workers to the region, are opening evacuation shelters and are providing relief supplies. Additionally, 190 Red Cross emergency response vehicles have been deployed and 290,000 ready to eat meals have been moved to the region. You can help by donating to the Red Cross. Financial contributions as well as blood donors are needed during this crisis.
o Call: 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767)
o Text: the word REDCROSS to number 90999
o Website:

• Salvation Army: They have 12 mobile feeding units as well as fully equipped 54-field kitchens ready for immediate response and will be able to provide over 30,000 meals. These will not only go to the victims but those engaging in the rescue. Additionally, they are providing clean-up kits, hygiene kits, drinking water, shower units, first aid supplies and emotional/spiritual care. You can help by donating money via calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769), online or by texting the word "STORM" to the number 80888 to make a $10 donation. You can also send a check made payable to The Salvation Army-Emergency Relief and mail it to:
The Salvation Army
PO Box 4857
Jackson, Mississippi 39296

Relief Phase
During the Relief Phase, efforts are transferred from rescue to providing relief to those in need. Relief efforts during this phase also ensure there is a short term plan of action for those people affected by, in this case, Hurricane Isaac.

How you can help?
By providing support, both financial and your time, beyond the initial rescue efforts you will ensure that those who are most affected by the disaster have a place to sleep, food to eat and clothing to wear.

• Feeding America: "When a disaster strikes, the Feeding America network of 200 food banks supports relief and recovery in communities by distributing assistance through the more than 61,000 local agencies they support. Feeding America will also provide immediate relief through emergency feeding centers operated by partner organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. When a food bank is affected in the disaster area, Feeding America has other local, state and national food banks that will insure food is available to those in need." To donate and help support Feeding America go to their website ( or call 1-800-910-5524.

• Consider supporting local relief efforts including churches, local chapters of the American Red Cross and Salvation Army as well as the local police, firefighters and first responders. Many communities will set up a relief fund, usually through their local community foundation. You can make a donation. If you don't have the financial resources to make a donation you could send a letter thanking the first responders for their efforts to rescue people and keep them safe. Often times we are so focused on who gets rescued and how that we forget to thank the folks who do the rescuing!

Recovery Phase

During the Recovery Phase work is done to rebuild and replace what has been destroyed. This is usually a long term phase; one only has to think about the rebuilding that is going on in Haiti still after 2 1/2 years to realize there is much work yet to be done.

How you can help?

Consider supporting organizations that need your help to rebuild communities. Here are a few:

• Habitat for Humanity: Most of us have heard about this nonprofit that does amazing work every day to build homes throughout this country and the world. They do, however, help during times of natural disaster. Habitat for Humanity will be working to determine hurricane impact and respond to housing needs. You can help by volunteering or making a donation. Go to their website ( to find out how you can best help.

• Many houses of worship also work to support the recovery and rebuilding efforts; if you are a member of a house of worship, consider reaching out and asking the question of what can your parish or congregation do to help. If no one knows, then perhaps start the effort by seeing if others want to do something, too.

People, especially it seems Americans, always want to help those that are in need due to a natural disaster. Here are five (5) tips and ideas of ways you can support those affected in the path of Hurricane Isaac as well as prepare yourself and family. By doing these things you will be Making A Difference® (M.A.D):

1) Don't go to the affected disaster area immediately; let the professionals handle the rescue but provide financial support through one of the above organizations listed
2) While we don't know the extent of the damage just yet, we always know that schools are in need of supplies, especially those that might have just gone through flooding and some destruction due to the rain and wind. Consider putting a care package together of school supplies and sending it to an affected school; look online to find out the hardest hit areas and contact the local school district or mayor to find out what is needed; ask your friends and neighbors to get involved.
3) Consider going on a "voluntouring" vacation this year to help rebuild the devastated areas; work through your local house of worship or the city or county government entities to find out what needs to be done
4) Make your home ready for a disaster... just in case one happens in your geographic area. It is recommended that each household have at least 3 days' worth of non-perishable food and water available; think about stocking your house with the supplies need to survive a natural disaster
5) Create an emergency plan of action for you and your family

BONUS TIP: When Hurricane Katrina hit, I sent a care package to my friend Renee who was displaced from her home in the Garden District of New Orleans. She still thanks me to this day for doing this. Reach out to those you know living in the affected areas and consider how you can get supplies such as toothpaste, personal hygiene products, snacks, etc. to them. You will be Making A Difference® (M.A.D.) in the life of that friend!

BONUS TIP #2: Don't forget the animals! Often during a natural disaster, pets become separated from their owners. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( is deploying emergency responders to help rescue and shelter animals that are displaced by the disaster.

Don't wait to act! Now is the time to help. Make that financial donation. Donate your time. Prepare your house and family in the event a natural disaster comes your way. These are all things you can do today to insure you are Making A Difference (M.A.D.)! What are you doing to be M.A.D. during Hurricane Isaac?