Posted: May 23, 2013

As a victim of two major hurricanes in New York in the past two years (Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy), I can tell you that there is no amount of aid that can bring back the things you have lost. Whether its clothes, or food, or in my case a home, or even lives, nothing brings them back. For those people, all they can do is try desperately to put their lives back together to the best of “their” ability because truly, when it is all said and done, that’s all they have. Doing this in a timely fashion, to cause as little disruption as possible in their lives and children’s lives, should be their priority and ours in our aid efforts. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

Insurance companies absolutely take forever issuing assessments to damages, approving funds, writing checks, mailing checks, etc. And most people don’t have tons of cash laying around they can use to rebuild a home. On top of that, you need you mortgage holders signature on most insurance checks in order to deposit them and “almost” have access to the funds. In my case, I waited almost 5 months to get a very low settlement amount from my insurance company, only to then have to send the check to Citibank (mortgage holder) for their endorsement. What this means is they make you endorse the check first, then they endorse, and then they deposit it into an escrow account to which you can draw off of only as you are getting work done, not in advance. More specifically, we were given 25% of the funds the day we hired a contractor and submitted the build plan to the bank for review, another 25% when the bank visited the home and saw we were at least 50% done, and then the remainder of the funds when the bank inspected the home at 95% completion. This is no way to release money for a policy that the homeowner is paying monthly. Unfortunately in most cases, the homeowner is the bank (by mortgage), and truly (unfortunately) they do have a vesting interest in the property. If you are a homeowner and do not have the cash to layout and get your work started, you are stuck in a ridiculous cycle.

I truly feel for the victims of this tornado this week, as they have been entirely displaced and are about to start this ridiculous process to get their lives back together, many of whom will have never gone through this before and will make spot decisions that seem right now that ultimately will hurt them, because the “agencies” do a terrible job educating people on what the process to recovery is.

The purpose of today’s blog comes about after reading how some people on Facebook and Twitter this week are just realizing how an organization like the American Red Cross works. Although a wonderful organization, do you know that the funds you are now texting to the Red Cross will NOT go to support this tornado effort!! Today’s text donation will go into the Red Cross piggy bank and remain there for the next disaster effort they decide to support, and in some cases, that money could go to an international effort. As for how the Red Cross will support the tornado victims, it might actually come from the funds collected via text campaign during the Hurricane Sandy effort. This isn’t to say the Red Cross won’t be able to support these victims. What it is saying is that if you think you are donating money to the tornado victims, you are not. Some people care and want to give to something specific, in this case with the Red Cross, you are donating to the next major effort, whatever that may be.

What I have learned, and want to pass on to you all, is that if you want to make a difference in a specific event, DO IT, but do it in a smart fashion that will make you happy and satisfied that you did something positive, AND will actually make a difference to some victims by giving them the help they need now. They need money for relocation expense immediately; rental properties, hotels, moving trucks, storage, etc. They need money for clothes, food, and other necessities today. TODAY!!

So how do you do this? Spend a few minutes doing some research and finding LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS that have formed in and around those communities right now. Call them; see who they are, and who they are supporting. If you send to a good, well organized, small organization, they likely have their mind set on a specific goal that will support just a few families. Nothing too big, but something that is realistic and reasonable and makes a difference to the smaller group they support. These families will get the money, will get the aid, you will make an immediate difference versus sending money to a big organization where you don’t know where the money goes AND is very hard for the families in need to ACCESS the aid. I’m still waiting for my aid from all the major organizations and fund raisers that were done to support Hurricane Sandy victims.
Start with one family who needs help; make a difference for just them. You CAN make a difference IF you do it the right way. Then move on to the next family, and then the next. Small organizations will do this for you by working directly with specific families.

This link is an example of a small, local New York group, that set their sights on supporting just a few families and was successful and made a difference.,45397?content_source=&category_id=152&search_filter=&event_mode=&event_ts_from=&list_type=&order_by=&order_sort=&content_class=&sub_type=&town_id=

Look for the small local groups; even with the small dollars they raise, they do make a difference. And trust me, it will be appreciated regardless of the size.