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How to Help Texas Winter Storm Victims

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by Leslie Farin

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A state of emergency

As unprecedented winter storms blanketed Texas, bitter cold temperatures, widespread power outages and burst pipes caused problems for many. Texans need food and water, and shelter where they can ride out the crisis.

My heart, warmed by the many people near and far who contacted us personally to ask how they might help, is full.  Well meaning people surfaced from unexpected corners of the world, and though I may not be able to thank everyone individually, you know who you are. Please know we greatly appreciate your caring and concern.

We are among those who were without heat for almost a week, and still have no water. Neighbors offered us housing without hesitation, and when we returned home, brought us boiled water to brush our teeth and cook. We are very grateful to live in a community that pulls together in times of crisis.

Lesson learned

It turns out leaving the house was a mistake. Who knew? Texans don’t generally have below freezing temperatures. We hunkered down by the fire with mounds of blankets for days, then finally dragged our frozen bodies to a warm home with hot water. We did not leave our faucets open while out of the house for the one night as we worried about doing so; as a result a number of pipes burst. The pool, only partially frozen when we left, fully froze during our absence, damaging the motor.

We are the lucky ones

The unfortunate reality is we are the lucky ones. Damages can be fixed. I don’t know when, but at some point I know they will be. Until then, I am working to remain positive and keep my sense of humor. For example, the plumber gave me a window of time when he planned to arrive, which was “between 7am and midnight Sunday, but please understand if we don’t make it until Monday or Tuesday and meanwhile, try to find someone else”.

Ha! We’ll be here…Sunday through Tuesday and probably longer. Where can we go? And find someone else? Really? There is no one else. Texas is actively recruiting plumbers from other states to come help. This situation is one for which no one was prepared. All you can do is laugh. Why stress about something over which we have no control?

Our issues are an inconvenience, but so many are truly struggling without heat, food and water. Many of these people already had difficulties before the storm from Covid-19 related issues and lack of income. The storm made their situation that much worse.

For those who want to help and are able to do so without hardship, below is a list of organizations that could use your support.

WHERE TO DONATE 

You can give to any of the organizations listed below (in no particular order):

  • The Salvation Army provides shelter, food, and other necessary items to those in need throughout Texas. They are asking for food and supplies, including gloves, towels, soap and moisturizer.
  • The American Red Cross has at least 35 warming centers with cots and blankets across the state. You can donate online.They are in need of blood and platelet donations as well. 
  • Mercy Chefs provides hot meals, clean drinking water and USDA Farmers to Families grocery boxes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
  • The Houston Food Bank distributes food to those in need. 150 meals can be provided with a donation of $50.
  • Austin small business Free Lunch makes deliveries of home-cooked meals, blankets, hand warmers and hygiene kits to the Esperanza Community residents, a state-sanctioned shelter/campsite in the city.
  • The Other Ones Foundation is provides resiliency kits for residents of the campsite. The kits include basic needs for those experiencing homelessness.
  • Dallas-area organizations Austin Street Center, OurCallingThe StewpotUnion Gospel Mission, and Oak Lawn United Methodist Church donate funds to help pay for temporary shelter as well as Covid-19 rapid tests for those in need.
  • Lucille’s 1913 Community Kitchen prepares and distributes meals in the Houston area.
  • Caritas of Austin helps those with housing insecurity in the Austin area. You can support their work by making a monetary donation or ordering items from their Amazon wish list to be shipped directly to the center.
  • The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County supports warming centers throughout Houston and Harris County.
  • Austin Pets Alive! helps keep pets across Texas warm and safe during the freezing conditions. The group needs heating pads, Styrofoam coolers, dog beds, heat lamps and monetary donations.
  • The Dallas Wings, the W.N.B.A. basketball team, is raising money with the American Fidelity Foundation and OurCalling to help those sheltering at the Dallas Convention Center. All money donations up to $6,000 will be matched.
  • The Austin Disaster Relief Network is accepting donations in order to provide people with emergency housing, gift cards, and supplies for short- as well as long-term needs.
  • The North Texas Food Bank helps get food and water out on the ground to those in need. You can donate money, food or your time.
  •  Feeding Texas partners with nearly two dozen food banks throughout the state to get food and water to Texans and is currently accepting donations.
  • Front Steps, an Austin-based organization, is running a blanket drive. Instead of “blessing bags, snack bars, etc.,” the group notes that blankets have a “lasting impact.” Acrylic blankets are preferred as wool can irritate damaged skin and cotton easily retains moisture.
President Biden declared a state of emergency, and the need for help is immediate. Any amount, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated.

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