As Houston Recovers from Harvey, Don’t Forget About Rockport

As Houston Recovers from Harvey, Don’t Forget About Rockport

Sep 18

The whole world is hearing about Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, but Rockport, Texas, the city where the eye of the storm actually struck shore, tends to be referred to as a footnote. And that has only intensified after Irma’s damaging sweep across Florida. But Rockport’s need is no less. A small city of about 10,000 people, Rockport lost its high school, several hotels, and whole neighborhoods, not to mention all of the local marinas. Recovery is expected to take years, and the town will never be the same. Bill Thomas isn’t a local. He describes himself as a “frequent visitor.” But he saw a need in Rockport, and traveled there immediately after the storm. Thomas is in distribution, and he put that career-gained knowledge to work immediately. A local business owner lent him an empty warehouse that was still standing, and he immediately launched a donation center. Many of the donations coming into Rockport from across the country had no place to go, and it broke his heart to see pallets of baby food and paper goods that had to be thrown out from being left out in the elements. His warehouse gave everybody a place to bring those donations, a place he called Aransas County Harvey Donaton Center. In less than a week, community members and strangers alike had donated nearly $10,000 to cover the center’s costs. A local business donated nearly 200 mattresses and pillows. Bayer Motor Company ran a fundraising drive among its employees. “That’s what Texas is about,” said Bayer’s CEO Lucy Larose. “You just come together and you put aside your differences and you put aside what might be bothering you and you feel in your heart just that need to help out.” Everything in Thomas’s Donation center is being given away free to anyone who needs it, and nearly everyone who has come for supplies has stopped a while to volunteer...

J.J. Watt Raises More Than $27 Million for Hurricane Harvey Victims

J.J. Watt Raises More Than $27 Million for Hurricane Harvey Victims

Sep 12

J.J. Watt is 28 years old and at the peak of his football career as the Houston Texan’s star defender. And he’s here to help. When he opened a Houston Flood Relief Fund on YouCaring on Sunday, August 27th, his initial goal of $200,000 was met and passed in a matter of hours, with donations coming from his teammates and fans. Soon enough, he raised $5 million, then $10 million, then $20 million. He rejoiced at hitting each new landmark. “Absolutely incredible. The most difficult times bring out the best in humanity,” Watt said on Twitter at the $10 million mark. By Wednesday, August 30, over 180,000 individual donors had raised that total to $27 million, which will go a long way to help the 50,000 people displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Most donations have been what individuals could afford, averaging around the $20 mark, but a growing handful of celebrities have written checks with a lot of zeros. Ellen Degeneres engineered a million dollar donation from Walmart. Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show donated another million, and promoted the drive on his show Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, Charles Butt, the CEO of Texas supermarket chain H-E-B donated a huge $5 million. YouCaring itself donated $50,000, and Amazon donated trucks and labor to transport more physical donations. Both money and tangible donations will focus on supplying food, water, and needed goods to those who have lost everything to the hurricane, and those still waiting to find out if they have homes to go back to. Watt says that he’s found a great deal of strength and inspiration in the response to his call for funds. “Every time we hit one of these landmarks I’m amazed. I think the worst times bring out the best in people and we’re seeing it in abundance right now,” he tweeted on Friday. And he’s right. Volunteers and donations have flocked to the stricken city and its surrounding towns. It will never be enough, but everything helps. *Photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group via Flickr Creative...

Astronomers Without Borders Recycling Eclipse Glasses

Astronomers Without Borders Recycling Eclipse Glasses

Sep 04

Between libraries and NASA, over 3.5 million eclipse glasses were handed out for free in the United States in the months leading up to the August 21 total eclipse. Ten times as many were sold by retailers like Safeway, Walmart, and Amazon. And all for one three-hour event. Their use outside of an eclipse is limited. Wearing a pair, only the brightest lights can be seen at all, so they’re useless as sunglasses, and they aren’t strong or durable for welding glasses. So rather than put them in a scrapbook or losing them in a box somewhere, send yours on to be useful to someone else. Astronomers Without Borders is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing the study of the universe to underserved communities around the world. They give telescopes to schools, support science programs in developing countries, and award grants to small schools so they can introduce their student bodies to the intersection between art and astronomy. In the wake of the recent eclipse, they’re asking that you “don’t waste, donate” your eclipse glasses. With the help of corporate partners like Google and Celestron, they’re collecting used glasses to donate them to schools in Asia, which will see a total eclipse in January 2019 that crosses through central China, Mongolia, and Russia, and in South America, which will see totality in July 2019 on a path through Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. Do check to make certain that glasses you are donating are up to spec. With this recent eclipse crossing fourteen U.S. states, the market for eclipse glasses boomed and spawned a catastrophic proportion of counterfeiters. Substandard eclipse glasses may allow you to look at the sun without pain while still allowing enough light through to do irreversible damage to the center of vision. Sign up for AWB’s newsletter to get astronomy news from around the world, and to learn where you can donate your glasses. Photo: People view the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse in Bryant Park in Manhattan. Credit: James...

Tips for Helping Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey

Tips for Helping Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey

Sep 01

Every major crisis comes with a cacophony of calls for donations. And Hurricane Harvey is no exception. Tens of thousands of people are displaced, thousands of homes gone. The flooding is off the scale, even a week after it all began. For every person looking to help, it can feel like a thousand hands are outstretched in their direction. Here are a few tips to narrow down your own charity options. Look for organizations on the ground. People who are already there, who you can see helping on the news. A lot of the time, this means the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Both have had their problems, but both also have demonstrated expertise in disaster relief. Other good grounded organizations include the United Way of Greater Houston and the Greater Houston Community Foundation. They both have long histories in the area. This is the other half the same coin but it bears emphasis: avoid new groups. They may seem tailor-made to match your sympathies, but they could easily vanish as quickly as they appeared. High flight risk, in other words. Privately-run donation drives fall under this same umbrella. These are especially common in online communities. So is the organizer disappearing with the proceeds, or showing a faked-up receipt of donation. Donate money, not goods. There will be organizations offering to collect blankets and clothes and used toys and food. They come from a well-meaning place, but they aren’t helpful. A 100-pack of blankets can be bought on Amazon for less money and less time than it would cost to collect and ship hand-me-downs. Companies out for more than karma points will only be asking for money and maybe volunteers. And last but not least, consider the long-term. Hurricane Katrina was 12 years ago and NOLA’s last refugees are only just now moving back. Houston and the other washed-out parts of Texas will need donations in six months and in six years as much as they do...

Beware of Hurricane Harvey Charity Scams

Beware of Hurricane Harvey Charity Scams

Aug 28

One thing about natural disasters: They bring out the best—and the worst—in people. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the resultant flooding, aid has been pouring in to Texas. Dozens of disaster relief organizations either have or are arranging for staff to be present to assist the people and animals left homeless by Harvey. Not only that, but area residents are helping one another, too. Unfortunately, though, there are always people who will take advantage of our desire to help the victims of natural disasters. Scammers are now using the Hurricane Harvey disaster to trick people into clicking links, both on Facebook and Twitter, and through phishing emails trying to solicit charitable giving for flood victims. Here are some examples provided by KnowBe4’s Security Awareness Training Blog: Facebook pages dedicated to victim relief that contain links to scam websites. Tweets are going out with links to charitable websites soliciting donations, but in reality they include spam links or links that lead to a malware infection. Phishing emails appearing in users’ inboxes asking for donations to #HurricaneHarvey Relief Fund. KnowBe4 suggests that you send employees, friends, and family an email about this scam of the week. Here’s their suggested text: “Heads-up! Bad guys are exploiting the Hurricane Harvey disaster. There are fake Facebook pages, tweets are going out with fake charity websites, and phishing emails are sent out asking for donations to #HurricaneHarvey Relief Funds. Don’t fall for any scams. If you want to make a donation, go to the website of the charity of your choice and make a donation. Type the address in your browser or use a bookmark. Do not click on any links in emails or text you might get. Whatever you see in the coming weeks about Hurricane Harvey disaster relief… THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK. So, what do you do if you want to make a donation and be sure your money is going to a legit organization and your credit card information isn’t going to be hijacked by scammers? Consumerist recommends the following: Don’t be shy about asking who wants your money. If you’re solicited for a donation, ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and the percentage of your donation that will go to the charity and to the fundraiser. Call the charity directly. Fiind out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the...