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Help victims of Hurricane Harvey by using social media and texting

Posted August 30

The images out of Texas of people stranded in flooding waters from a category four hurricane are heart-breaking. And visuals of heroes jumping in chest-deep water to rescue those in need have inspired me.

I have every desire to get on the next airplane with my kayak to go join the efforts. But since that is not logical, and there are already trained professionals and volunteers on the ground, there are other ways to help with just a few clicks. Technology is coming to the rescue during this natural disaster big time.

It’s hard for most of us to understand the desperation that comes with being an unwilling participant in a tragedy like Hurricane Harvey. But some of those wanting to help who couldn’t head out in person took to the web.

One of the most amazing efforts came from @HarveyRescue on Twitter, which was an effort to get calls for help on social media to rescue teams. Volunteers vetted and updated a map of SOS requests in real time. These requests streamed down social media feeds using the hashtags #HarveySOS and #HarveyRescue. People took to Twitter to cry for help for themselves and for others.

One rescue request was for a woman with a 3-month-old baby, and another for a little girl on a ventilator. Some people tweeting for help seemed like they were using social media as the last resort for rescue for their loved ones. People also used normal means to call for help, of course, and we know through all of these efforts, rescuers saved thousands of people from the rising waters.

The American Red Cross always makes it easy to donate. Text HARVEY to 90999 to make an automatic $10 donation. People (including some of my friends) donated and then challenged others on social media to do the same. An option to donate also pops up on the home page when logging into iTunes from anywhere. iTunes says 100 percent of all donations will go to the American Red Cross.

Charity organization Save the Children says it’s setting up child-friendly spaces in evacuation shelters to help kids and families affected by Hurricane Harvey. Automatically donate $25 to the cause by texting HURRICANE to 20222.

If the Salvation Army is your charity of choice, text the word STORM to 51555. It will reply with a link to its website where you can choose a donation amount.

Global Giving is a crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits, donors and companies across the world. Text HARVEY to 80100 to make an automatic $10 donation to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. The money will go toward emergency supplies and longer-term recovery assistance.

Home and room vacation rental company Airbnb is helping out a couple of ways. Evacuees can rent from the site with no service fees for those checking in before Friday. People can also offer to rent out free accommodations on the website for those who are displaced.

Google has set up a donation widget that pops up anytime someone searches for "Hurricane Harvey." It partners with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy that will work in the affected region to get the funds to those who need it most

See, giant tech conglomerates aren’t so bad.

And if a monetary donation isn’t possible in your financial world right now, here’s a final idea. While my husband was serving in the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he would receive letters from schoolchildren once in a while.

These were non-specific letters written (often with drawings) by kids around the country, thanking service members. My husband considered these letters as treasures and still does today.

Take an afternoon with your kids and have them write thank you notes to the first responders in this horrible disaster. Send them to any police station, fire station or hospital in the affected area.

Many other states sent personnel as well, and you could possibly find somewhere closer to home to send the letters. I promise these sentiments will not go unnoticed or without gratitude.

Amy Iverson is a graduate of the University of Utah. She has worked as a broadcast journalist in Dallas, Seattle, Italy, and Salt Lake City. Amy, her husband, and three kids live in Summit County, Utah. Contact Amy on Facebook.com/theamyiverson

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