Vail Valley organizations, volunteers work to aid Hurricane Harvey victims | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley organizations, volunteers work to aid Hurricane Harvey victims

Trucks drive on a flooded road past flooded houses in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Orange, Texas, on Thursday. Several local organizations, businesses and churches are providing aid to those impacted by the storm.

EAGLE COUNTY — The urge to help is strong when disaster strikes, but Houston is a long way from the Vail Valley. Still, several local groups and churches are finding ways to provide some aid.

For most of us, the best option is sending money. The Vail Valley chapter of the Salvation Army is referring people to the national chapter. The same is true of the local arm of Catholic Charities.

Both local offices will gladly accept donations earmarked for storm aid, of course. But there are national groups that can accept online donations, and what relief efforts really need is money — especially at this distance. With some exceptions, stuff tends to be too difficult to sort, store and distribute.

And money given to an established nonprofit group goes farther when pooled with other donations.

"You get more bang for your buck," said Megan McGee Bonta, of the Avon Catholic Charities office.

Tsu Wolin-Brown, the caseworker for the Vail Valley chapter of the Salvation Army, agreed.

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"Please don't even think about cleaning out your closets," Wolin-Brown said. "And the only things people nearby should bring is food and water."

Not only nonprofits

Outside the nonprofit world, Yellowbelly Chicken, a three-restaurant group founded in Vail, is dedicating 100 percent of its Wednesday profits to hurricane relief. Money raised will go either to the United Way of Houston or the American Red Cross.

Company founder Michael Friedberg said the idea was pushed by Vail store general manager Jaelyn Manzanares and prompted in part by flooding that hit the Boulder area in 2013. Friedberg grew up in Boulder, and the basement of his parents' home flooded that year, destroying a number of family mementos.

"We're not in a good position to give back as far as our size goes, but we have three restaurants that aren't under water," Friedberg said.

While money is what most of us can provide, the Eagle River Presbyterian Church is seeking donations of items from wheelchairs to new socks to coloring books. The church will soon drive a truck to St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Houston.

Another group of local churches is in the process of rounding up manpower for cleanup and repair efforts in the coming weeks.

Rev. Brooks Keith, of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, said that its congregation has put together 11 trips since 2005 to New Orleans, North Dakota and Texas to aid flood-recovery efforts.

"What we've learned is that the first wave of aid is best left to the professionals," Keith said. "It's most important to have the professionals in and doing their work and not to get in their way."

Keith said his congregation will wait out the storm and then send in a team to help restore homes that people want to stay in. The team will provide labor and supplies to help homeowners rebuild.

At Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Edwards, Rev. Jason Haynes' congregation has a similar plan.

"We'll send a team to Texas when (people there) are ready. You don't want to go in too early or too late," Haynes said.

Experienced helpers

Gracious Savior has sent volunteer teams to disaster sites in the past. The volunteers often bring their own equipment. But it's more than 1,100 miles to Houston from Vail, so the Gracious Savior team may ask Texas Lutherans for a little help with gloves and tools.

Rev. Ethan Moore, of Trinity Baptist Church, said his congregation includes a number of people from Texas who are frequent visitors to the Vail Valley.

After first checking to ensure those people are all right, Moore said the Trinity congregation will probably wait to evaluate what work needs to be done.

"There's going to be a lot of help coming in quickly," Moore said. But, using 2005's Hurricane Katrina as an example, Moore said help from Trinity's congregation could be most useful in four to six months, when the first wave of assistance has faded.

Trinity Baptist is associated with the Southern Baptist Church, a group with a strong following in Texas and elsewhere in the South. The Southern Baptists are in and around Houston now and will be able to guide whatever help Trinity can send.

Volunteer teams from the Vail Valley will be fairly small, but that's what small groups can do, Keith said.

"For churches and nonprofit groups our size, we can get it done for families," Keith said. "I hope the people of the Vail Valley can open their hearts and pocketbooks. We'll never flood, but we can open our hearts."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

Well-directed help

There are a number of ways to donate money to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey. But there are also individuals and groups that won’t put all your money toward relief efforts.

Pastor Ethan Moore, of Trinity Baptist Church, recommends a bit of due diligence.

“Make sure 100 percent of your money goes to disaster relief,” he said.

If your local business or group is organizing aid, email Scott Miller at smiller@vaildaily.com. We’ll get it in the paper.

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