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- Reach out and let them know you’re thinking of them. This alone can really buoy someone’s spirits. Don’t put pressure on them to get back to you.
- Offer a specific way to help that you feel you can uniquely contribute — they may be too overwhelmed to have an answer to the question “how can I help?”
Can you babysit? Take care of their pet? Run errands? Change the air filter in their car? Help make phone calls or navigate online resources that can help them?
- Don’t send physical donations unless requested. As fire victims are moving from place to place, they may not want more than the basics to get by in the short-term. Instead send money or a gift card so that they can buy the essentials they feel they need — hygiene products, socks, etc.
- If you really want to send a physical donation, one idea is a “luxury” item that they will unquestionably need and may not feel they can spend lavishly on at this time. For example luxurious socks, body wash, shampoo, coffee, etc. These little essentials can add up so it’s nice if someone else splurges a bit on your behalf on something extra special that can be a little bright spot in your day.
- Send money, any amount. No, it’s not awkward, it’s thoughtful. Venmo, PayPal, a check, whatever you like. No amount is too small.
- If this is someone you are close to and you realistically are in a position to offer this, ask if they’d like to delegate a small part of the insurance claims process to you. See this post for examples.
- Offer your time. The insurance claims/FEMA process is incredibly long and burdensome — find ways to help save the person time so that they can focus on the things only they can do.
- Give it time. You don’t need to jump into action. Send your well wishes and then consider waiting a few weeks or months to let things shake out before you ask how you can best be of help.
- If you don’t know a fire victim personally but would like to help in general, look for a local fire victims fund. These are established fairly quickly, usually by the local community foundation, bank or credit union. In my experience, these local organizations do a great job of disseminating funds and support quickly. (How to find a local community foundation in a given area.)
- Support a firefighter. Look for non-profits that are supporting firefighters and their families such as the Firefighters Support Foundation or National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.