In the wake of a disaster as big as Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Sandy, parents often want to help but aren’t sure where to begin. We’ve compiled lists of national and international organizations that mobilize after a major event, local organizations that often step up to help their communities, and simple ways parent groups can help, along with Texas-based organizations helping with Hurricane Harvey recovery. First, veteran volunteers have shared these tips with us:

Find a personal connection. Ask board members, teachers, and other parents if they know of anyone who may have a direct tie to a school that needs help.

Check social media. Many PTOs and PTAs use Facebook to update their communities; lots of initial information and ongoing requests for help can be found there.

Be wary of unfamiliar online disaster relief organizations. Sadly, con artists run online scams to take advantage of generous people, so make sure you get references if you want to use a middleman.

Call reputable sources offering help. Contact local town officials, including the superintendent or mayor as well as police and fire departments, to find out which schools need help or what local organizations you can work with.

Give what’s needed, when it’s needed. Some schools receive such an outpouring of donated supplies immediately after a disaster that they can’t store it all, but they may have ongoing needs that continue past the initial event. National and international aid organizations often address immediate concerns, so it may be worth it to save your larger parent group efforts for a couple of weeks later, once affected schools know better what they’ll need for the longer term.

National and International Organizations

These charities and disaster relief organizations send aid workers, collect donations, and distribute clothes and other essentials.

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster

American Red Cross

Salvation Army

Catholic Charities USA

Heart to Heart International

Search Charity Navigator to determine whether a particular organization is trustworthy and well-run

Local Organizations

If your group would like to coordinate support at the local level, these kinds of organizations are often active after a natural disaster or other major event.

  • Food banks

  • Humane society chapters

  • Animal shelters

  • Blood banks

  • State PTA offices

  • School districts and PTO and PTA groups in the affected areas

Ways You Can Help

Collections

  • School supplies

  • Toiletries

  • Clothing (including underwear and outerwear)

  • Blankets

  • Pet supplies

Monetary donations

  • Penny drives are a great way to get students involved and raise some cash—every little bit helps.

  • Gift cards are easy to send and allow the recipients to get the items they need.

Time

  • Donate blood or organize a blood drive.

  • Deliver collected items to organizations that will sort and ship.

  • Connect people in your community who want to help with those in affected areas who need support.

Read “Planning a PTO Community Service Project” for tips on putting together a longer-term effort.

Local Hurricane Harvey Recovery

The following Texas-based organizations are working specifically to help state recovery efforts after the hurricane.

Principals Helping Principals (Kristen Eriksen, an elementary principal in Keller, Texas, created a spreadsheet where schools in need can be adopted by other schools)

Houston ISD Foundation

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund (administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation)

South Texas Blood and Tissue Center

Austin Pets Alive!

Texas Diaper Bank

The Texas Monthly website has an article with a list of organizations that are assisting people in Houston and along the Gulf Coast.