In the wake of Hurricane Irma, words like “fortunate” and “lucky” have been used to describe Tampa Bay. We spent days prepping for the storm. We purchased hurricane supplies, boarded our homes and invested in generators. As the hurricane track shifted, almost daily, many of us were left feeling nervous and uncertain. Some evacuated to local schools-turned-shelters in the hopes of safe refuge.
Days after Irma has passed, many in our community still do not have power in their homes. Downed trees and debris still spread throughout their lawns. Still, it only takes a moment to view the catastrophic devastation in South Florida and the Keys to realize how fortunate we really are. It seems that after days of preparation and subsequent cleanup, the biggest impact of Hurricane Irma on Tampa Bay could be “perspective.”
This perspective has driven many of us to check on others a bit more often, to offer food, shelter or fresh water. It’s had us come together to clean yards and cut trees. It’s inspired us to do more and be more.
Making a difference after Hurricane Irma
If you are looking for simple ways to continue carrying this outlook with you, here are some ideas:
Get to know your neighbors
Host a community gathering or clean-up party and get to know your neighbors. Create a neighborhood Facebook page and share everything from your favorite recipe to your next garage sale or community news. Simple, everyday acts help you build this extended family.
Donate your unused hurricane supplies
It may be several weeks before some in Florida regain power, or have access to clean water. Consider donating your unused hurricane supplies to organizations such as Metropolitan Ministries, Seeds of Hope or others in your area. For a list of potential donation opportunities, view this recent article from Fox13 Tampa Bay.
Thank a first-responder
Following major natural disasters, law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, National Guard, members of the Red Cross and many more converge on areas to both rescue and relieve its residents. They do so without recognition or accolades. In fact, we very rarely ever know their names.
Take a moment to thank the individuals helping your community return to normal. For instance, bring the linesmen fixing your utility lines coffee and donuts. Write thank you cards and deliver to your local fire station. Find unique ways to tell them you appreciate their hours of tireless work, and will never forget what they’ve done to help in a moment of need.
Find the under-the-radar opportunities
While donating and volunteering with large scale operations can help in the wake of a disaster, local organizations, churches, nursing homes, and schools have had needs arise as a result of Hurricane Irma. Reach out to individual groups and ask what their current needs are. Perhaps it’s additional manpower, help gathering needed supplies or clean-up. Be ready to jump in where needed.
Volunteer with a charity
If you have found your passion with helping others, consider making it a consistent community commitment. Sign up to be a regular volunteer and help not-for-profit organizations year-round in making an impact on our Tampa Bay community. If time is an issue, consider making small, regular donations to local charities. Many offer monthly options for giving.
We’ve seen that often we become our best self, our best neighbor, or citizen when something bad has happened or is about to happen. The blessing of Hurricane Irma is that it has provided us with a benchmark of how our community should act all of the time. Remember how you felt this weekend and challenge yourself to use that memory to make your community and friendships stronger.