With the sheer number of people impacted by the multiple devastating hurricanes in 2017, it was a hard holiday season for many. Luckily, these kinds of events can bring out the best in others, and that was shown with the amount of help ordinary citizens provided so that hurricane-affected families could still get to enjoy the holidays. It was definitely a holiday season to remember!

Keeping Up Traditions

Many people who were displaced from Puerto Rico for the hurricanes ended up in a culture far different from their own. It’s hard to be in a place where you feel isolated and people don’t speak the way you do, listen to the same music or dress the way you do. It’s a constant reminder that you had to leave your home behind.

In Rochester, NY, they organized a holiday lunch to try and give displaced Puerto Ricans a sense of community and the ability to be with others who share their culture. In addition to the lunch, community members donated gifts so that children and families could get something when money is tight. They made sure that they could have a holiday celebration with people connected to them, even though they had to leave their former homes behind.

A Touch Of True Joy

In Big Pine Key, one of the Florida Keys hit hardest by Irma, the holiday spirit was kept alive, even through all of the devastation. Through a Facebook group created by a longtime resident, toys and gifts were donated to bring the holiday joy to some children who needed it most.

Instead of just getting presents, though, the kids got another big surprise. Santa Claus himself went around to a dozen families aboard a fire truck, delivering the presents to the children personally. Even with the devastation around them, kids still got to have a holiday and nothing really compares to a child getting a gift directly from Santa!

Bringing The Holiday Spirit

It just doesn’t feel like the holiday season without some decorations and lights. They’re a reminder that it’s the best time of the year. But when people are planning an emergency evacuation, grabbing the holiday decorations probably isn’t on the top of the list on their disaster plan.

One Texas resident, with help from her community, organized a holiday decoration donation drive for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Residents who have been displaced from their homes and have lost a lot aren’t going to spend money on luxuries like decorations. But they wanted Harvey victims to be able to feel the holiday cheer and maybe make their current living situation feel a bit homier during the holiday season to bring some joy.

Giving Gifts That Matter

The holiday spirit wasn’t just in store for the little ones. Decorations and toys help bring some cheer for the holiday season, but other things are needed too. United Way of Houston requested that people wanting to help hurricane victims donate gift cards instead of physical items. While physical things are always appreciated, they’re a bit harder to deal with, especially when people may have limited space and aren’t in their own homes.

Gift cards give families the option to get things that they specifically need, like food, new clothes or appliances and other items that need replaced after the flooding. The gift card campaign was a great way to make sure families got things they truly needed this holiday season.

In Superior, Wisconsin, teachers made giving to those in need a lesson for students. The fifth grade class at Cathedral School, Superior collected multiple items needed, like personal care products, food and clothing for those impacted by the hurricane. And they didn’t stop there. They also raised money to take care of the shipping costs to actually get the items to those that needed them. That’s a lesson well worth learning!

Though disasters like this can be so devastating, they also show how good people can really be and how much we can want to help people that we don’t even know. 2017 will undoubtedly be one that hurricane victims remember for the rest of their lives, but hopefully the helping hands will be a shining light when they look back on the hardships of getting back to normal life after devastation.

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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