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Harris Blackwood: The need for help is there; it’s on us to respond willingly
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I am amazed sometimes how people respond when there is a need. In the South, we will whip up a casserole or a cake when someone has a death in the family. I have known someone who gave a needy man the shoes off his feet.

As a nation, we are giving people. 

The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey has been painful to watch. People have cars, homes and other belongings that were ruined by the record-setting flood. There is a desire to do something tangible to help those who are suffering.

In this electronic age, the fastest way to do this is by giving online or by phone. The money becomes readily available in the disaster area.

I had the opportunity to travel to Tylertown, Miss., In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Bruce Fields of First Baptist Church in Gainesville had once been on the staff of the Tylertown Baptist Church and he made a call and they knew we were coming.

We were sent to the rural area of Walthall County to the McGee’s Creek Baptist Church. They had been without electricity for days and there wasn’t a power pole standing from the time we left the city limits of Tylertown. The pastor was using a generator sparingly to keep his wife’s medication refrigerated. We dropped off a few supplies and left.

Our next stop was the Greater A-manger Baptist Church. This was an African-American congregation and I think they were taken aback when a group of white men from Georgia showed up bearing needed supplies. 

That was 11 years ago and technology has changed. The fastest way to get help to people in need is electronically. An online donation today can be in use in the field tomorrow. There are many organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the North American Mission Board or Samaritan’s Purse that are providing much needed relief in Texas and Louisiana. 

They provide meals, a shower or can help by washing a load of dirty clothes in a portable laundry trailer. Some of them provide vouchers to pay for gasoline, hotel rooms or replacement clothes.

Yes, I wish we had the ability to give every person a hug and make sure little children had a toy to play with, but right now is not the time. This is still a rescue and recovery mission. One street may be fine and the next one is under water.

This disaster is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. There will be opportunities for groups to make trips to the region for assistance when things settle down. Trust me, there will be needs for local church mission trips for many months, if not years, to come.

There is an organization call VOAD, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. It is an association that helps cooperating groups to spread their resources over an extended disaster area. They have a combination of religious and nonreligious groups that participate with them and there are links on their website to about four dozen organizations, including those some specialty groups, such as those who assist with pet care and recovery.

They also have information on how you can volunteer with many of the groups. The links have both information about the participating organizations and an opportunity to make an online donation. The website is

You can also check with your local Emergency Management Agency. They will be receiving information about conditions and needs in the disaster area.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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