Hours after the Champlain Towers collapse in Surfside, Fla., the community was inundated by acts of kindness. Food, blankets, toiletries and clothes quickly poured in — so much material that officials asked people to refrain from sending these items. Instead, they encouraged donations of money.
Although most volunteer spots have been filled and organizations are overwhelmed with donated items, people still can help the Surfside collapse victims.
These organizations and initiatives are making sure victims do not face this ordeal alone
The Support Surfside fund is a collaboration involving the Coral Gables Community Foundation, the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Miami Foundation, the National Basketball Association’s Miami Heat, and the Miami Heat Charitable Fund.
The group’s mission is “standing together to build a hardship fund for those impacted,” its website says.
With the help of more than 6,500 donors, Support Surfside has raised over $1.6 million and is giving $155,000 to eight organizations to assist affected families with housing and mental health services.
Donors can support their efforts by giving to a PayPal account they set up.
Operation Helping Hand is a joint effort of United Way of Miami-Dade and the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald that was launched in the aftermath of Hurricanes Mitch and Georges in 1998. It has been reactivated since in emergencies and natural disasters. The operation is supporting victims’ short- and long-term recovery needs.
The United Way is collecting donations for Operation Helping Hands.
Those who are not U.S. citizens do not qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid, but the American Red Cross is helping displaced people with their housing needs regardless of their nationality. The organization also is providing emotional and spiritual support to survivors and their families at the assistance center.
“We are asking people to not send items like stuffed animals, blankets, clothing and household goods — as it takes time and money to store, sort, clean and distribute these items, which diverts limited resources away from helping those most affected,” the American Red Cross said in a news release.
The organization is collecting money on its donation page.
GoFundMe also has created a hub for donations. As of Wednesday night, it had tracked 21 verified fundraisers for affected individuals and families. The hub includes three campaigns supporting community relief efforts — including two on behalf of the Shul of Bal Harbour and one organized by a partnership of the office of Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid, Giving Gators, Dawoodi Bohras of South Florida, and Chabad of Miami Lakes.
Other religious organizations have stepped in
Surfside, a town with much faith diversity, has an extensive Jewish population. In response to the tragedy, the Shul of Bal Harbour — in collaboration with EZS Events — organized a central fund to aid the residents of the collapsed condo tower.
The Chesed Fund on Wednesday night had raised nearly $1.3 million, which will be distributed “as needed directly to the victims and families.”
The Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Jewish Community Services of South Florida and Mishkan Miami established an emergency assistance fund to provide financial assistance, chaplaincy support, crisis counseling and social services.
Hatzalah of South Florida — a nonprofit volunteer emergency medical services organization — has been supporting Surfside’s search-and-rescue efforts with its team of paramedics. It also has a donation site.
The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami also is collecting financial contributions for victims.
The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services, which has an open-ended donation drive, is responding to the collapse on the ground by securing transportation for families and feeding first responders.
Food Rescue US is partnering with restaurants to provide meals to displaced people who are staying in hotels. The organization also is working to feed first responders, and it set up a fundraising campaign.
Mercy Chefs provides “professionally prepared, restaurant-quality meals” during natural disasters and national emergencies. It is serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to first responders.
Since Thursday, José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen has served meals to displaced families in Surfside and to emergency responders. Until now, the organization has deployed three of its partners’ food trucks — Ms. Cheezious, Cuban Guys and Soul Town BBQ — to feed those in need from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
“Right now, the estimate is that emergency crews will be on-site for at least a month, so we will continue to ensure they have delicious, filling meals to help them continue,” World Central Kitchen’s website reads. The organization accepts donations year-round for its humanitarian work around the world.
Resources for affected families
In a news conference Wednesday, Ryan Logan, South Florida regional officer for the American Red Cross, encouraged survivors — especially those who were not in the building when it collapsed — to contact the organization.
“Please contact us to ensure we provide the same level of services that we’re providing here locally to you wherever you are,” Logan said.
For those residents who were forced to leave pets behind during their escape, the Friends of Miami Animals Foundation and Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell launched a pet relocation hotline (833-366-2642).
Florida Blue has partnered with New Directions Behavioral Health to offer a free 24-hour grief-counseling help line. It also offers bilingual emotional support at 833-848-1762.