We “adopted” a USVI family impacted by Hurricane Irma

A different approach to helping those affected by Irma
By Avital Norman Nathman  Published on 09/20/2017 at 7:02 AM EDT

Photo Credit: Adopt A Family USVI

The Jewish New Year always brings up many feelings about how I live my life. After all, one of the elements of these High Holy Days is looking back over the choices and actions made over the last year to see if we’ve done the best we can. Unfortunately, we are currently living in a time where the opportunity to do more –to do better– is abundant. Between standing up against White Supremacy to the almost daily onslaught of climate change and weather related destruction, there are ample opportunities to do better, to help more, and to set an example for our children and generations to come.

And so, last week, we “adopted” a family from the US Virgin Islands.

While many people were wondering what they could do to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, a friend posted on Facebook about an organization in Florida that is connected to a family resource center in St. Thomas. The resource center has many families that are struggling post-Irma. As islanders began to wade through flood-ravaged homes, they found out just how much the storm had taken from them: food, clothes, and personal hygiene products are only the start of what is being asked for.

Adopt A Family USVI came together immediately after Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean, when it was clear that the islands would be suffering the storm’s impact for quite sometime. The organization quickly offered a tangible way for those outside Irma’s zone of impact to help: sign up to be assigned a family and purchase/send the products they need.

Our package, almost ready to ship

Many of us untouched by these storms are feeling at a loss over what to do and how to help communities who have been devastated by Irma and Harvey. There are many organizations that are on the ground and are well-organized, doing necessary work. From afar we can donate money, and I always encourage doing so both to national organizations and local ones who know best how to stretch these dollars. Yet at the same time, sending money can feel a bit impersonal, especially when kids are involved. Adopt A Family USVI is not only directly helping families in need, but they are providing a special opportunity for other families to make an impact in a very real, tangible way.

The day after I signed up, we were assigned a family: a single mother with two boys. Their needs were simple. They asked for food (rice and beans), dry, clean socks and shirts, personal hygiene products, and maybe some treats and fun things for the boys. We had some shopping to do.

I had never before seen my son so pumped for a trip to Target.

We got all of the essentials and then tried to stuff as many happy items in as well. Crayons and paper, a fidget spinner and candy all made the cut along with packages of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, granola bars, tampons, pads, Tylenol and mosquito repellant. We packaged everything up in a priority USPS box (For a flat rate of $18.85, we stuffed that box with as much as we could since weight isn’t an issue), and sent it out Monday.

Mailing our package. FBB is code for Adult female, boy, boy for easy sorting once it arrives

Since I signed up, Adopt A Family USVI has been inundated with both volunteers wanting to send their own packages and islanders signing up as needs grow and change. The need is still there and many families are waiting for help, especially with the unknown impact of Hurricane Maria on the horizon. If you’re in a position to help, and want to be a part of something bigger in addition to donating money, please check out Adopt A Family USVI.

Not only will you be helping a family get the items they need to make it through this devastating time, but you will be making a personal impact. The organization posted when their very first box was received, by a mother with a baby, who teared up, particularly at something as simple as non-dairy creamer. the mother told Adopt A Family USVI that “not having to worry my baby will go without is so immensely helpful right now.”

With Maria hitting the islands hard while folks are still in recovery after Irma, the time to act is now. As a Jew, I honestly can’t think of a better way to usher in the new year than by helping out directly those in need. If you’re looking for something to do that involves the entire family, teaches your children about what community and helping our neighbors (even if they’re all the way in the Virgin Islands) is all about, please sign up and make an impact today.


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