8/31 UPDATE: Highly recommend registering as a volunteer with the Red Cross (click here). You’ll get on their email list and receive updates when they need people. Ignore whatever it says about 10 hour shifts for 10 days. Just sign up! They need people! You can enter in your availability for volunteering in this survey–someone will reach out and coordinate.
I have never been so proud of my city. In these past few days, Houston and the surrounding areas have been hit by a lot thanks to pesky Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of people have been displaced by flooding and the Houston community rose to the challenge to support its neighbors and went above and beyond in their efforts!
See pictures we took of flooding in the Houston Heights area here.
On Tuesday, I went to George R. Brown Convention Center to volunteer. After being cooped up in my house and listening to a lot of gloom and doom on the news all weekend, it was great to get out and do something. The experience was honestly quite exhausting, both physically (I was on my feet for 8 hours and walked 6 miles) and emotionally. I was genuinely moved after seeing so many people rally for the cause. Around noon, GRB was literally turning away volunteers, even nurses and doctors! The Red Cross that was stationed there also received so many donations that they had to move drop-off location to another site . The piles of blankets, diapers, and clothing were piled way above people’s heads and individuals were climbing mountains of clothing that touched the ceiling in some places.
Verizon set up a station for people to call family, check-in on social media, and apply for FEMA aid. I saw a man setting up shop giving people hair cuts and beard trims. I saw another guy dressed up as spider man entertaining the kids. All of this in addition to the hundreds of volunteers sorting through donations, handing out food, taking persons in wheel chairs to the bathroom, and more!
If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. #HOUSTONSTRONG
The volunteer experience was organized, but also chaotic. The process got more streamlined throughout the day as roles became more specialized and coordinated. I was initially stationed at the Verizon booth, but realized a greater need in the fact that no one seemed to know where anything was! So I went around and make some maps with sharpies, printer paper, and a Capri Sun box as a straight edge so volunteers and workers knew where to direct people and find key things. If you head over to GRB in the coming days, you might find some of the maps tapped on the walls!
How to Volunteer at George R. Brown Convention Center
That being said, although the sun came out today, there’s lots of work still left to do. If you want to volunteer at GRB, here’s what you need to know:
- Red Cross is coordinating everything, and if you can sign up online (here!) before showing up
- Volunteers are now divided into shifts as follows: 5am to 10am, 10am to 3pm, 3pm to 8pm, 7pm to 12am, 12am to 5am.
- I parked on the street and paid a meter, some parking lots are also open downtown
- Enter through Hall E, you’ll check in at the information desk and then head to Hall A for a 15 min orientation and job assignment
- Things you might do include: sorting donations, handing out water, registering people at check-in, manning lost and found, sweeping, cleaning cots, handing out snacks, handing out blankets and clothes, helping with medical (if you’re a registered health professional)
- If you want to check if road conditions are clear, check out the Houston TranStar Traffic map
- Most volunteers wear gloves, as the place is a bit smelly and they’re cautious about spreading diseases with so many people
What to Donate & Where to Drop Off
As mentioned above, GRB received an ish ton of donations. Which is awesome! But also you don’t want to overwhelm the staff with unnecessary items. The situation is constantly changing so follow GRB on Twitter to see what they need right now. When I was there, they mentioned not wanting any more clothing, but were still looking for medical supplies and children items. Also check Twitter for updates on where to drop off the items, it’s varying as they have spill over support at BBVA Compass Stadium and Toyota Center.
UPDATE 8/31: Here’s an interactive map to show you what shelters need what!
Items most needed:
- Diapers, Wipes, Baby Powder (travel size)
- Baby Formula, Bottles, Baby Food, Bibs,
- Clean Underware
- Power Strips, Extension Cords, Cell Phone Chargers
- Beddings and Pillows
- XL, XXL Clothing
- Wheel Chairs
- Lysol, Purell, Hand sanitizer
UPDATE 9/2: You can also donate to the Cajun Navy. They are coordinating all the boat rescues in flooded neighborhoods and have set up headquarters in Midtown (2505 Fannin). Check out this spreadsheet for what items they need most. Focus on the items listed “HIGH” Priority.
You Can Also Volunteer Here…
The Houston Food Bank just recovered from the flood and has opened its doors. It’s looking to move TONS of food each day to shelters in the Houston Area, so lots of volutneers are needed! You can sign up for a shift on their website here! I went on Wednesday and Thursday and it was a lot of fun (and a lot of heavy lifting). The whole operation is very organized and you can tangibly see yourself making a difference. They have shifts scheduled from 8am to 12pm and 6pm to 9pm. But I walked in around 3pm and worked a three hour shift. That’s an option if you have the capability!
If you register with the Red Cross, you can also volunteer at the locations below. If you can get to one of the shelters safely, please email OVPVOL1@gmail.com or call 713-313-5482 or 713-313-5483. This is how you will get the code that you will tell the team when you check in that tells them that you are cleared to work the shelter. (Without this code, you will get turned away.) They have shifts from 8am-2pm, 2pm-8pm and 8pm-8am. Biggest need is the overnight shift!! Volunteers at the shelters MUST be 18 or older.
|Living Stones Church||1407 Victory Lane Alvin, TX 77511|
|Sacred Heart Catholic Church||507 S 4th St, Richmond, TX, 77469|
|George Junior High School||4601 Airport Ave, Rosenberg, TX 77471|
|Terry High School||5500 Avenue N, Rosenberg, TX 77471|
|Thurgood Marshall High School||1220 Buffalo Run, Missouri City, TX 77489|
|Bay Harbor Methodist Church||3459 Deke Slayton Expressway
Galveston, TX 77573
|MO Campbell Education Center||1865 Aldine Bender Rd
Houston, TX 77032
|Golden Acres Baptist Church CLC||2812 Pansy Street PASADENA, TX 77503|
|First Baptist Church Tomball||401 Oxford Street TOMBALL, TX 77375|
|Pasadena HS||206 Shaver St. Pasadena, TX 77506|
|JFrank Dobie High School||10220 Blackhawk Blvd, Houston, TX 77089|
|Forge for Families||3435 Dixie Dr, Houston, TX 77021|
|Holy Name Catholic Church||1920 Marion Street Houston, TX 77009|
|Beaumont Civic Center||701 Main St, Beaumont, TX 77701|
|Magnolia High school||14350 FM 1488
MAGNOLIA, TX 77354
|Shepherd Middle School||1401 South Byrd Ave
Shepherd, TX 77371
|Knights of Collumbus Hall Sealy||1310 Hwy 90 West, Sealy 77474|
Via social media, I’ve also seen that NRG Stadium is requesting volunteers, as is Lakewood Church. Follow @itsnothouitsme on Twitter! We’re retweeting and sharing lots of relevant information, like where to find open grocery stores and open restaurants . Also, find us on Instagram. We’re posting updates to our story for flooding, volunteering, and general info as well!
You can register here and Volunteer Houston will contact you with assignments. The damage and rebuilding effort is going to last some time after the flood!
Keep Donation Money in Houston!
Sometimes, the best way to give back is with your pocketbook. But really! Cash is easy for organizations to handle, there’s little operation cost involved and no volunteer effort needed to sort through it! If you would like to contribute financially, here are some organizations that are guaranteed to keep the money in Houston:
- Greater Houston Community Foundation – relief fund established by Mayor Turner to specifically help Houstonians in need
- BakerRipley – organization in charge of rebuilding Houston after the storm
- Houston Food Bank – 97% of the food goes to working individuals
Stay away from Go Fund Me fundraisers! They might seem like they’re raising money for a legitimate cause but there is no guarantee that the money is going towards what you think it is. Stick to legitimate organizations.