Hurricane Ida’s devastating winds, flooding and heavy rains swept through southeastern Louisiana on Sunday, and the focal point of its devastating path became clear Monday, as homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people were left without power.
Local and national volunteers and aid organizations are standing by to rescue, feed and shelter those affected. Here’s some guidance for those who want to help.
Do your research before you give.
Natural disasters create ripe opportunities for fraudsters who prey on vulnerable people in need and abuse the generous impulses of others to donate money to help them. The Federal Communications Commission noted that scammers use phone calls, text messages, email, and mail, and even go door-to-door. The Federal Trade Commission has tips for spotting a fraudulent charity or fundraiser.
Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and other organizations provide information about nonprofit groups and aid organizations and can refer you to the reputable ones.
If you suspect an organization or individual is involved in fraudulent activity following a natural disaster, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud or to FEMA at 1-866-720-5721.
Donations of money, rather than goods, are usually the best way to help because they are more flexible and can be easily redirected as needs change.
Here are some local organizations in the storm area.
All hands and hearts prepared for Ida by stationing its disaster assessment and response team in Beaumont, Texas. The volunteers will enter storm-hit areas whenever they can to meet emergency needs, which will likely include chainsaw work to remove debris and trees, tarp, muck and gut flooded homes, and decontaminate homes with mold contamination.
The Food Bank Second HarvestServing Southern Louisiana, has prepared more than 3,500 disaster-prepared food packages containing items such as rehydration drinks and nutrition bars, as well as bottled water. It also maintains cooking equipment that can be transported to heat prepared meals. Donations of mineral water and cleaning products are welcome. Volunteers can apply to help, but donations of money are the most efficient way to support the relief effort, the organization said.
AirLink is a not-for-profit humanitarian flight organization that transports aid, aid workers and medical personnel to communities in crisis. It has become a member Operation BBQ Relief to provide equipment, cooks and volunteers to prepare meals for those affected by the storm. You can donate here.
SBP, Originally known as the St. Bernard Project, it was founded in 2006 by a couple in St. Bernard Parish who were frustrated by the slow response after Hurricane Katrina. It focuses on restoring damaged homes and businesses and supporting recovery policies. The Hurricane Ida plan needs donations, which will pay for home-building supplies and protective equipment for team members.
A number of volunteer rescue groups operate under a variation of the Cajun Navy name. One is cajun navy relief, a volunteer emergency response team that became a formal non-profit organization in 2017; it has provided emergency and rescue services during more than a dozen floods, hurricanes and tropical storms in Louisiana. The team has identified supplies needed; donations can be made here.
National organizations lend a hand here.
AmeriCares, a health-focused aid and development agency, responds to Ida in Louisiana and Mississippi, and matching donations. Vito Castelgrande, the leader of the Hurricane Ida team, said the organization will begin assessing damage in the worst affected communities when it is safe to travel.
thank you cooks, a Virginia-based nonprofit group, was formed in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the hometown of founder, Gary LeBlanc. The organization has served more than 15 million meals to people affected by natural disasters or who have other needs. The group has deployed two mobile kitchens to serve hot meals in the wake of Ida. You can donate here.
The Red Cross has mobilized hundreds of trained disaster workers and relief supplies to support people in evacuation shelters. About 600 volunteers volunteered to support Ida’s relief efforts, and shelters have opened in Louisiana and Mississippi offering cots, blankets and comfort kits, and ready meals. The organization has also positioned products needed for blood transfusions. Donations can be made through redcross.org, or 800-RED-CROSS, or by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999.
United Way of Southeast Louisiana collects donations for an emergency fund to rebuild and provide long-term aid, including community grants.