Having had plenty of experience with hurricane recovery, Schoharie County residents are eager to help Texans with Hurricane Harvey.
The best advice: Just wait.
Fundraising and volunteering are essential, but learning what the Houston area needs most comes first.
“This is an exercise in patience,” said Angelika Klapputh. “We have to let them tell us what their needs are.”
Ms. Klapputh is the district program manager for the American Red Cross and has held several one-day ‘boot camps’ as crash courses to prepare volunteers for shelter duty in Houston.
She’s already sent the first wave of volunteers to Texas and plans more boot camps, but the concern now is clogging Texas with too many volunteers from across the country and making a bad situation even worse.
“We can’t just send people without a pre-assigned place to work,” Ms. Klapputh said.
It’s difficult to get flights, she added, and with evacuees lodged in hotels, there’s no place to house volunteers.
Houston is unlike Schoharie County’s experience with Irene. Here, volunteers could stay in Albany and make the easy trip to the Schoharie Valley. Similar logistics aren’t available in Houston, Ms. Klapputh said.
But there’s no doubt local volunteers will be needed. Ms. Klapputh said Harvey had the impact of Hurricane Katrina that struck New Orleans, “but it’s over a much larger area.”
“We’re trying to grasp the extent of damage on the ground,” she said. “People will be down there months, if not years.”
Ms. Klapputh urged interested volunteers to sign up for boot camps and then wait to be assigned.
“We’ll wait a little bit when it’s no longer primetime news,” she said. “We’ll stagger deployment."
Work at first would be helping people at shelters. People trained in health care and those “good with their hands” will be needed, too, Ms. Klapputh said.
Help is also needed here for answering phones and registering volunteers.
“It’s not as exciting, but without it, this could not be done,” Ms. Klapputh said.
Upcoming boot camps run from 9am to 6pm and will be Thursday in Poughkeepsie, Saturday in Utica and next Wednesday in Saratoga Springs.
“The good news is that people here understand because they’ve been through it,” Ms. Klapputh said of Schoharie County.
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If heading to Houston isn’t your thing, fundraising for Texas might be.
Sarah Goodrich is executive director of Schoharie Area Long Term recovery, which successfully coordinated thousands of volunteers and raised huge sums after Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Like Ms. Klapputh, she recommended waiting to know what Texans’ needs are, and in the meantime, raise money for relief.
“Don’t send things,” Ms. Goodrich said. “With that level of damage, they don’t have the ability to store goods, and it just creates more of a problem.
“There will be a need. Look for ways to raise money.”
Touching on a similar note as Ms. Klapputh, Ms. Goodrich said the damage in Texas is greater than that in the Schoharie Valley. Where Irene dumped 15 inches of rain here, estimates of Harvey’s rainfall reached four feet.
“It really was an unreasonable amount of water,” Ms. Goodrich said, “and there’s no place for that water to go.”
That means Houston’s needs will be greater for a longer period of time. Fundriaisng now will help later.
Ms. Goodrich stressed that fundraisers find a reputable agency as a recipient for their donations. Faith-based agencies may be the best, she added.
“Money that goes to fait-based sources stretches dollars a lot further,” Ms. Goodrich said. “Find something you believe in and make sure it gets to the right sources.”