SAN ANGELO, TX – The Salvation Army of San Angelo is looking to provide relief for those affected by Hurricane Harvey by giving more than just material goods.
Major Tim R. Grider, with the San Angelo Salvation Army, summarized the relief plan to two main factors:
First, organizing any relief help needs to start at the top with agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and work down to the state level relief efforts.
The second factor is determining who needs the immediate help to better determine how emergency relief groups can best provide aid.
“One thing that’s prevalent in [the U.S] is that every time there’s a disaster everyone wants to help,” Maj. Grider stated. However, he added that some of this immediate aid comes down to people handing over “stuff” that they no longer need or want.
This creates a surplus of clothing, bedding and other material donations that aren’t going to help those who have no place to store those items.
The crucial donations needed for the relief effort includes bottled water, travel size toiletries, paper towels and dry foods that can withstand wet conditions.
“The [Hurricane victims] need to have [these supplies] so as they can rebuild and recover,” Maj. Grider stated.
He added that this phase of relief is necessary to allow for federal government agencies, like FEMA, to get into these damaged areas first and to start evacuating and rebuilding before any volunteers come to render relief.
“We’ve got to get the people moved away from these areas so we can clean-up and access [the damage],” Maj. Grider said.
The second phase includes further accessing of the damage and determine the needs of the victims to further support the rebuilding effort.
Maj. Grider believes the challenge for relief groups isn’t receiving material donations, but instead the lack of financial support that can be used to rebuild these communities.
“We need to spend our time and energy to helping the victims with food and shelter first,” Maj. Grider stated. “We have no place to store the clothing [donations] here, much less in the relief areas.”
When Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast two weeks ago, evacuees began going to larger cities for shelter. These cities include Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. However, as these cities began to reach their capacity, cities like San Angelo began to prepare to house evacuees.
Maj. Grider said there were 10 evacuees at the San Angelo shelter, but after Dallas began taking in evacuees most began heading over there instead.
After two weeks of providing relief from a distance, the green light was given from the federal and state government's to start sending volunteers from emergency relief groups like the Salvation Army.
Maj. Grider was able to send four volunteers from San Angelo to Victoria on the Gulf Coast last Friday, Sept. 1.
Maj. Grider is looking for motivated individuals who can devote two weeks to travel to Victoria and assist with disaster relief with food truck service. The volunteers are swapped out after the two-week period with four other volunteers.
“We need volunteers who can go away for two weeks, that is our number one priority right now,” Maj. Grider stated.
He added that the problem with disaster relief is that volunteers can’t just show up unannounced, there needs to be a delayed amount of time to figure out exactly where volunteers can go to provide relief.
The first group of volunteers will return to San Angelo on Sept. 15
Anyone who is interested in serving needs to show up in person to the Salvation Army Social Service Office on 215 Gills St. with an I.D. and social security card ready make copies with. Volunteers must be 18 or older.