It’s hard to hide from the images, the videos and the stories that paint a picture of the devastation across southeast Texas after Hurricane Harvey.

The tropical storm dropped 40 to 52 inches of rain from Aug. 25 to Sept. 2 in parts of Texas and Louisiana and 51 people have died as a result. Harvey is the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

As Catholics, we are called to help those in need. While many want to give and give deeply, whether there’s a personal tie to the area and people affected or not, we must plan how we give.

“Many have said disaster recovery is a marathon, not a sprint, and our giving must be also,” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, the executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. “It can be tempting to respond to every emotional plea for help, or to the first request we see, but strategic giving is important.”

Allmon said recovery from tragedies like Hurricane Harvey can take years, and explained the three stages to disaster recovery: immediate crisis response, intermediate transitional recovery and long-term recovery.

Immediate crisis response

This response is handled by city and county first responders as well as the American Red Cross. During this response, many faith communities open their doors as immediate shelters. Donations of shoes, blankets, clothing, diapers, food and water are collected by the Red Cross, United Way and the Knights of Columbus or local churches or schools functioning as shelters.

Intermediate transitional recovery

This phase starts when victims are able to leave temporary shelters and return home to assess the damage and make long-term living arrangements. Catholic Charities is usually fully involved in this phase. Donations often include cleaning supplies and gift cards to home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, and outlets such as Walmart, Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Long-term recovery

This phase includes restoration, rebuilding, and returning to normal activities. In the long-term, donations to Catholic Charities, which helps in this rebuilding phase, are essential.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops suggests that all national donations be made to Catholic Charities USA. To donate, call 1-800-919-9338 or mail a check to PO Box 17066 Baltimore, MD 21297-1066 and write “Hurricane Harvey” in the memo line.

The recovery process is still in its beginning phases, but Catholic Charities USA is working with local agencies and parishes to set up shelters, distribute supplies, and have teams going door to door to check on families.

If a monetary donation cannot be made, prayers are always welcome. Catholic Charities suggests this prayer:
God of hope and mercy, we lift up to you all victims of Hurricane Harvey, and those responding with assistance and aid. Protect all who are in any form of danger; provide practical help to all those in need; strengthen the weary; console the grieving and heal the suffering and bless those engaged in disaster relief efforts with safety and courage. Help all people of goodwill to respond with compassion and generous hearts. Amen.