KINGSPORT — Hurricanes Harvey and Irma gave back-to-back beatings to Texas, Florida and the Southeastern United States in recent weeks, causing millions of dollars in property damage and displacing thousands of residents. The storms have claimed more than 100 lives.
But from the chaos has come a great wave of generosity. People volunteering, organizations sending supplies and individuals giving hundreds of millions of dollars.
How does that generosity affect local organizations that rely on donations to survive?
Rhonda Chafin, the executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, suggested on Wednesday that the hurricanes could negatively affect donations to local nonprofits. Danelle Glasscock, the executive director of the United Way of Greater Kingsport, agrees, at least in the short term.
“I do think fundraising efforts for hurricane relief will have a slightly negative impact on our local fundraising campaign,” Glasscock said.
The United Way recently kicked off its annual fundraising campaign, which in Kingsport has a goal of $3.6 million.
In the long term though, Glasscock said she believes hurricane relief will have a very positive impact on fundraising, for primarily two reasons.
“The first is that people learn that when they are generous and put another (person’s) needs above their own, it feels good and adds meaning and purpose to their life. That spirit of giving can have a lifelong impact,” she said. “The second ... is the increase in the spirit of volunteerism.”
Glasscock's daughter and son-in-law live in Port Arthur, Texas — one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Harvey. Their home was flooded by a foot of water, as was their entire neighborhood. Glasscock said she spent last week in Texas helping them start down the road to recovery, witnessing firsthand the devastation caused by the Category 4 storm.
She also saw the resilience of the people impacted.
“At my daughter’s home, eight people from her work group showed up within the first hour they were able to get back into their home and worked in the dark night moving out furniture, pulling up wet carpet and cutting out wet sheetrock,” Glasscock said. “The next day folks from her church showed up and helped continue the efforts.”
The United Way of Houston and United Way Worldwide have been on the forefront of giving and recovery efforts, Glasscock said. The American Red Cross, with its disaster preparedness efforts, stepped in and opened shelters and fed thousands of folks while local nonprofits specializing in recovery and home repairs are now stepping up.
The United Way of Greater Kingsport supports 30 agencies and 44 programs along with four key initiatives. So far, the organization has reached 46 percent of this year’s campaign goal. On any given day in Kingsport, more than 1,400 lives are being helped, all because of donors’ investments through United Way giving.