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How to help in wake of Miami condo collapse

The enormous search-and-rescue effort in Surfside will require support for both the rescuers and displaced residents.
A Miami-Dade County firefighter unloads planks from a truck near the site of a partially collapsed building Thursday in Surfside.
A Miami-Dade County firefighter unloads planks from a truck near the site of a partially collapsed building Thursday in Surfside. [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
Published Jun. 24
Updated Jun. 24

The Surfside condo building that partially collapsed early Thursday near Miami is going to test the resources of rescuers and disaster relief organizations as the massive search-and-rescue effort continues.

American Red Cross is providing food at the family reunification center set up at the Surfside Community Center and is helping displaced residents find a place to stay.

Trained Red Cross volunteers are also providing mental health support to help survivors in the aftermath of the disaster, the organization said.

“Our hearts go out to those affected by the Surfside building collapse,” said Siara Campbell, the Red Cross regional communications director for South Florida. ”We appreciate the outpouring of support and community members reaching out to the Red Cross to offer their help during this challenging moment.”

Campbell said the American Red Cross will continue to work with local officials and community partners to determine how it can best support the Surfside community in the days ahead. The organization has not yet set up a fund for Surfside, but it does have an urgent call at redcross.org for blood donations to meet a nationwide shortage.

Local community organizations in Miami have created a hardship fund at supportsurfside.org. Also, the Cadena Foundation, a South Florida nonprofit Jewish organization that gathers donations to be used in humanitarian crises around the world, has put out a call on Instagram for phone chargers, pillows, drinks and snacks for Surfside families, as well as monetary donations at cadena.ngo/en.

Anyone in need of information about a loved one is being directed to call the Family Reunification hotline at 305-614-1819 or visit miamidade.gov/emergency.

People lie on cots as they wait for news at a family reunification center, after a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed Thursday morning in the Surfside area of Miami. The Red Cross is providing food, mental health services and housing for displaced residents.
People lie on cots as they wait for news at a family reunification center, after a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed Thursday morning in the Surfside area of Miami. The Red Cross is providing food, mental health services and housing for displaced residents. [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]

By midday on Thursday, Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro, assistant coaches Chris Quinn and Eric Glass and other team representatives visited first responders near the site of the disaster to drop off cases of bottled water, snacks and meals for the rescuers.

Steve Stowe, who is the vice president and executive director of the Miami Heat Charitable Fund, said the effort was, “kind of like what we do when (Hurricane) Irma hit or when any of these tragedies happen, and we went to ground zero and unloaded all the supplies. They spoke to the first responders just to lift their spirits a little bit.”

Stowe said their charitable partners at World Central Kitchen and Direct Relief were on their way “to deliver more hot meals and food trucks and help with some of the displaced victims.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers general advice on ways the public can help in the aftermath of a disaster at fema.gov/disasters/volunteer-donate.

Financial contributions to recognized disaster relief organizations are the fastest, most flexible and most effective method of donating, FEMA says. Organizations on the ground know what items and quantities are needed, often buy in bulk with discounts and, if possible, purchase through businesses local to the disaster, which supports economic recovery.

The Federal Trade Commission has a guide to avoiding scams and giving wisely to charities. In doing research online, the FTC suggests searching for a cause and phrases like “best charity” or “highly rated charity.” Then when you consider giving to a specific charity, search its name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”

Organizations that offer reports and ratings about how charitable organizations spend donations and how they conduct business include BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.

Donating goods that are specifically requested by recognized organizations can also be helpful, but unsolicited goods, such as used clothes and household items, can end up being a waste of time and resources for the organizations.

Volunteers may be needed in the coming days and weeks, but volunteering should also be coordinated through trusted sources.

“Trusted organizations operating in the affected area know where volunteers are needed,” FEMA says. “There will be volunteer needs for many months, often many years, after the disaster. Your help is often needed long after a disaster.”

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.