Springfield, MO

Opinion: Helping Houston from Missouri, smartly

Guest Column

Posted online

This week, the nation has watched as Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston and its neighboring communities. Thousands of people have been misplaced. Homes and businesses have been destroyed, and the death toll continues to rise. Search and rescue teams from several states, including Missouri, have been deployed to help.

We know all too well from our own experience in Missouri the destruction Mother Nature can cause. Just six years ago, we witnessed our own disaster when an EF5 tornado ripped our community apart.

It was after the tornado touched down in Joplin that we began to see the kindness and compassion in our friends from other communities. In the days following, so many people from all over the country came to our aid donating time, money and supplies. Without the generosity of those volunteers, our community would not have rebounded the way we did. We have never forgotten the labors of our neighbors in our time of need. Now, many people want to return the favor to the victims in the Houston area.

In order to make sure volunteer and donation efforts are the most beneficial for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has put together a list of the most effective ways to help. FEMA discourages donations of unsolicited goods, such as used clothing, household items, medicine or perishable food at this time.

Instead, FEMA says cash donations to trusted, reputable, voluntary or charitable organizations better help address urgently developing needs. Volunteer agencies and faith-based organization have more flexibility with cash in hand to buy resources needed immediately. Cash also pumps money back into the local economy, helping businesses recover faster.

Blood donations also are needed through the American Red Cross.

FEMA suggests going to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website for more volunteer options. Also, the Texas VOAD has a list of vetted disaster relief organizations providing services to survivors.

FEMA wants to remind people not to self-deploy to personally volunteer in the disaster areas. Potential volunteers should instead team up with a charitable organization and one already in Texas to help the victims. [Editor’s note: Currently, Springfield-based Convoy of Hope is only taking volunteers who live within two hours of the affected area.

Patience is key in situations like this. We want to make sure our efforts are safe and that we are meeting the actual needs of the victims. Volunteer efforts won’t end this week. The community will need help for months and years after these waters recede. The recovery period is just now beginning. As we watch this storm move down the Gulf Coast with additional impact headed toward Louisiana, we will keep those victims and their families in our prayers as well.

Ron Richard, of Joplin, is Missouri’s Senate president pro tem. He can be reached at


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