We live in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles, and this weekend was spent weathering the effects of a firestorm on our local community. The fires began in Thousand Oaks, following a horrible shooting there at a local College Night event where 12 young people lost their lives.
The fire continued to Malibu and the latest fire to rage, known as the Woolsey Fire, was burning within 4 miles of our home and church. Driving to pick up my son from school, I could see the fire burning from the stoplight.
This was not my first experience with a California Wildfire, my Freshman year at Pepperdine the Malibu Fires came within yards of our school. Ashes were falling on our heads as we walked from our classes and we were evacuated from the campus. The smell is what stays with you. The smoke fills the air and inside your home it's even difficult to breathe easy.
Although we may feel helpless, we are not hopeless and must not remain idle. In the midst of disaster there are simple ways you can serve your community that can make a big difference.
6 Ways to Serve Your Community in Disaster
1. Stay Out of the Way
There is so much fascination with fire and temptation to drive closer to it and hike up to see it and take priceless photos of it. Don't do it. One of the best ways to serve your community is to stay out of the way and let our courageous first responders do their jobs without distraction and without adding yourself to their list of people they have to save for putting yourself in danger.
2. Donate to the LAFD or the Red Cross
In an effort to feel helpful we may want to put together care packs for our firefighters or blankets and goodies for evacuees but the difficulty with that is how to distribute them without causing more problems. The easiest way to truly help is to donate to the ones heading up the rescue efforts, the LA Fire Department, fighting the flames and the Red Cross, running the evacuation centers. This is the easiest and most efficient way to get the right help to the ones who need it most. You can text "CAWILDFIRES" to 90999 and $10 will automatically be donated to the Red Cross.
3. Volunteer at Your Local Councilman's Office
Our city Councilman Bob Blumenfeld's office was overwhelmed with donations. Truck-fulls of goods lined the sidewalks, displaying the goodness of so many who cared to send donations. This leaves a need for sorting and distribution for those goods, however. So volunteers are needed to help sort and load trucks with donations for distribution at evacuation centers.
4. Give Blood
If you are healthy and able, one of the greatest things you can do to serve your community in disaster is to give blood. Hospitals are always in need of it and if you are able to donate, you can do so simply by finding a local drive with the Red Cross. Just type in your zipcode in the top right corner and a list of places will populate. If you're in SoCal, Here is a link to blood drives being held this week in the San Fernando Valley if you want to help.
5. Offer Shelter to Evacuees
Having to comply with mandatory evacuation of your home in the case of a natural disaster is never an easy thing to do. Most of the time, it comes with the police knocking on your door at 3am to inform you it's time to evacuate. You have to rush to pack and get your family together and grab whatever valuables you want to save and get out fast. Going to an evacuation shelter is never fun but it's awkward to call your friends up and impose your whole family on them.
One way you can help alleviate the awkwardness for evacuees is if you have a home with an extra room or even an extra bed or couch for someone to crash on, you can offer it up to them. I'd start first with those you know who are affected and then branch out via social media to those in your network. It's an easy way to do something for those impacted.
6. Pray For Them
It's a strange thing to be in the midst of a natural disaster. You are watching unspeakable devastation and feeling helpless to stop it. You feel inadequate to offer anything to those around you who have just lost everything.
When it comes to prayer, helpless is the best place to be. It is where you realize there is a God and you are not Him. It is where you are forced to rely completely on His will, His plan and His strength because you have no strength or answers of your own. When your circumstances force you to trust in a power greater than yourself, is when you can find that power.
Praying for those in crisis can often be just what people need to take a breath and regain their peace in the midst of the world toppling around them. You can be a comfort and an encouragement to them by simply offering to pray with them. If you don't know anyone affected that you can call to pray with, you can simply pray for all of those affected and all of those working to help that God would comfort and equip them and that He would draw them close to Himself through the storm.
Myself being evacuated once, I remember how thankful I was to my friends that offered let me stay with them in their homes until the fire passed. You have more power than you know in times like these and can impact your community so much by little things. Here are 6 ways to serve your community in disaster:
- Stay out of the way
- Donate to the LAFD or Red Cross
- Volunteer at your City Councilman's office
- Give blood
- Offer shelter to evacuees
The beauty that comes out of crisis is the way we support one another through it.
Welcome to Honey & Figs! I'm Lisa. I love helping people with practical ways to live more abundant lives based on my own experience. You can click here to find out more about me.
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