Iowa Flood: How You Can Help

Whenever I read about a natural disaster in the news, I think -- like most people would, I guess -- about the people I know who might be affected. Usually, if I know anyone in the area that got hit, a quick e-mail or phone call finds that they and all their loved ones are fine. So when I e-mailed a friend who lives in Iowa City the other day, I was expecting to hear pretty much that.

Instead, I heard this:

Thanks for checking in, dude. Things are bad--my mom lost her house, my stepdad lost his house, my sister and her husband, who lived at my mom's, lost all their stuff.

The only good thing is that the water crested yesterday, so it's not going to get higher. My mom's house is apparently still standing (with water well into her second story--and her first story is raised 8 feet above the ground), but some of the neighbors' houses are totally just gone.

Right now we're trying to find housing for the four of them, but it's hard. All the leases end at the end of July and local landlords are being fuckheads about helping flood victims with flexible leasing or month-to-months.

But besides that everything's fine. I'm not being snarky. We really are fine, just kind of shaken and stressed. We're healthy and my mom and stepdad have flood insurance (most of the victims of this flood don't) so they'll be able to rebuild their homes quite easily when the water clears out.

I asked her if there's anything people can do, beyond the obvious. Are there charities besides the Red Cross that seem to be doing good stuff on the ground? Anything I could use my little bloggy megaphone to promote?

She replied:

I haven't heard of anyone else taking donations so far, other than Red Cross. I know the last time the river flooded, the Mennonites did a ton of rebuilding for people. I have no reason to think they won't be helping this time too. It's just that rebuilding is still a few months out. But their work is especially important for people who did not have insurance and who will not have money to hire contractors to rebuild. The Mennonite Disaster Service website is here.

Other than that, there's not a lot to be done. Maybe watch the news and, if your readers are in the area, come down for what is sure to be a monumental clean-up for the cities of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids after the waters completely recede. I mean, the sandbags alone are going to be a total mess.

Then later, she forwarded me an e-mail from none other than Barack Obama, suggesting the following:

If you are able to assist in flood relief efforts, there are many ways to help your neighbors in Iowa. Here are some resources to get involved:

  • Call 2-1-1:When you call 2-1-1, you can receive information on flood-related assistance, including road closings, evacuation and shelter information. Opportunities to help are available by zip code, so anyone can find out where to help near their home.

  • Iowa Concern Hotline:
    Volunteer hotline for people who wish to help in recovery efforts.

  • Iowa City Flood Hotline:

  • Johnson County Emergency Management:

  • Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Service Program -- Cedar Rapids: 319-378-0337

Shakers, if you have any other suggestions, please leave them in comments. One thing I do know as a fat activist is that where donations of clothing are needed, plus-size clothes are almost always in short supply. So if you have some larger clothes lying around, that might be one place to start.

Update: Red Cross is handling the clothing donations, and apparently only drop-offs. If you're in the area and want to donate, call (800) 733-2767 to make sure they're still looking for what you've got. (My guess is, yes, they'll be looking for stuff above a size 16 for women, at least.)

Laurie suggested contacting the Humane Society to see about helping homeless pets. My guess here is that foster homes near the area will be especially helpful, since so many people are moving into temporary housing where pets aren't allowed.

And Tom Hilton in comments offered this link for info on where volunteer sandbaggers and the like are needed.

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