Montana wildfires have burned more than 1 million acres, an area larger than Rhode Island. At least 138 fires of 100 acres or more are burning in our state right now, costing Montana millions and millions of dollars and putting both our communities and our brave fire crews at risk.
And it’s not just those in our own backyard who are hurting. More than 1,000 miles away in Texas and Louisiana, countless Americans are struggling to get back on their feet after Hurricane Harvey steamrolled the area, leaving devastation and heartbreak in its wake. Tens of thousands of people remain sheltered, their homes flooded. It’s been estimated that 27 trillion gallons of rain fell in just a six-day span. That’s enough water to supply New York City for five decades, news outlets are reporting.
Hurricane Irma brought even more chaos and crisis.
That’s a lot to take in. So what can you do to help?
The answer is quite a bit, actually.
A donation to an aid organization like the American Red Cross will go a long way to providing comfort and relief to those here at home and to our friends in the south.
Since July, Montana Red Cross has opened more than 17 wildfire shelters across the state, six during the Labor Day weekend alone. Your donations help us provide things like food, water, shelter and support to our neighbors who have been forced from their homes during a disaster, often with little to no warning.
There are many ways to give. You can visit redcross.org/Montana and click on donate funds. A drop-down menu will let you decide if you want to donate to Hurricane Harvey or Irma relief or to your local chapter to help people here in Montana cope with disasters like wildfires. You also can mail a check to Red Cross of Montana, 1300 28th St. S., Great Falls, MT 59405. Write Montana disaster relief on the memo line if you want that money to stay in Montana. Lastly, you can call 800-ARC-MONT.
You also can volunteer.
Montana Red Cross offers countless opportunities that match a wide range of skill sets and interests. Disaster action team volunteers open shelters and provide disaster relief on an on-call basis. Communications volunteers update our social media sites, write media releases and keep the public informed as disasters occur. Disaster health service volunteers help clients replace medications following a disaster. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Visit redcross.org/montana and click on volunteer to learn more.
Yes, it’s been a rough summer. But please remember that every contribution helps, no matter how modest. We were reminded of this recently when an elderly Big Timber woman called wanting to help those hurting after Hurricane Harvey. She was on a fixed income and apologized she could give only $15. No apologies were necessary. Just think how much we could do if everyone were equally as generous.
Thank you to everyone who has donated already and to our tireless volunteers.
Together we can provide relief to those who need it most, here at home and across the country.
Matt Ochsner is the communications director for the American Red Cross of Montana and Idaho.