U.S.|How to Help Derecho Victims in the Midwest
Residents of the Midwest are still reeling from the impact of a derecho that devastated the region last week, leveling corn and soybean fields, destroying homes and causing hundreds of thousands to lose power. Iowa was hardest hit by the series of storms, which wiped out roughly a third of the state’s 31 million acres of farmland and many homes.
At least three people died in the derecho, a line of severe thunderstorms that produce high winds, and many remain without power or access to food and water.
More than a week after the storms swept through several states, there is still a lot of confusion and needs are constantly evolving, said Carter Oswood, executive director of Feed Iowa First, an organization that distributes fresh produce to food-insecure communities.
“A lot of people right after were just a bit perplexed,” he said on Tuesday. “What do I do? Where do I go? Where do I stay?”
His organization has expanded its offerings beyond produce to include items like charcoal, lighters, baby formula and toiletries — anything the community needs.
“The hard thing is just seeing the response,” Mr. Oswood said. “The past two days the efforts have really stepped up with help on the national scale. It was just a little late to the party, and I think it could’ve happened a little bit sooner.”
Here are some ways you can help relief efforts.
If you’re nearby or can make it to the disaster sites, United Way of East Central Iowa is looking for volunteers to deliver and cook food, clean up debris from the storm and more. The organization provides a list of opportunities on its site.
Table to Table, an Iowa City organization that redistributes food that might otherwise go to waste, is assisting in efforts in Cedar Rapids by delivering food to those in need. It is seeking volunteers to deliver food, as well as donations to support its mission.
The Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Facebook page allows people to offer their services and connect with those who might need them. Some are offering clothing donations, while others are listing locations where donations might be dropped off.
Before you make a donation, especially to a lesser-known organization, you should do some research to make sure it is reputable. Sites like Charity Navigator or Guidestar grade nonprofits based on transparency and effectiveness. The Internal Revenue Service also allows you to search its database to find out whether an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. And if you suspect an organization or individual of committing fraud, you can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud, part of the Department of Justice.
The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation helps connect donors with local organizations working on relief efforts and has set up a disaster recovery fund.
The American Red Cross is collecting donations for its support efforts in Iowa and Illinois, which include providing food, shelter and medical treatment. You can donate on its website or by phone. You can also do so by texting the word “disaster” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
The Salvation Army is raising money to help clean up and to provide food and lodging and other relief efforts. You can donate to its fund here.
The Carson King Foundation has partnered with Iowa love, a clothing company that makes Iowa-themed attire, to sell #IowaStrong shirts to benefit derecho relief. All net proceeds from the shirts go to the Carson King Foundation, which distributes the funds to organizations across the state. Any money raised by Wednesday, Aug. 19, will go to United Way locations in counties affected by the storm. Money raised after that will go to various organizations providing derecho relief.
The crowdsourced giving platform GoFundMe has set up a page for derecho-related fund-raisers. Most of the options are helping to support individual families whose homes were destroyed or who need help with other expenses.
Feeding the Hungry
Many Iowans are still struggling to find food, and a number of organizations are trying to help. The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, which serves six counties in Iowa, is collecting donations for food and disaster relief. It also provides a list of places where those who need it can get access to food, shelter or charging stations.
Horizons, a local organization in Cedar Rapids, is delivering food to families in need through its Meals on Wheels program.
Feed Iowa First, which serves Linn County, is accepting donations and seeking volunteers to keep its services running. The organization operates urban farms across the county and distributes produce to communities using mobile veggie vans. People are allowed to take as much as they want, no questions asked.