Cleaning up today, I found a newspaper clipping from a few years ago after a wave of fires had swept through Southern California. Hmmm, sound familiar? It was titled "You Too Can Be a Hero," and had a few recommendations on how to help out which are still applicable today:
* Start in your own neighborhood. Are there elderly or ill neighbors who may be having trouble breathing? Check on them.
* Call the American Red Cross at 800-HELP-NOW or 800-257-7575 (for Spanish) or go to its regional Web site www.redcrossla.org to make a donation of money, goods or time. The organization's volunteers are feeding, housing and counseling displaced fire victims across Southern California. It is a gargantuan task.
* The United Way funds local social service charities, which will be stretched thin for months with housing problems and other fire-caused issues. Go to www.liveunited.org/give and locate your local United Way to offer money or time.
* Check with local homeless shelters and food banks to see what they need and when they need it. Often smaller organizations are flooded with donations of goods during a crisis and can't process them all.
* Animal shelters end up with the pets of fleeing families, from hamsters to horses, as well as animals lost in the panic of evacuations. The Web site www.rescuers.com/shelters.htm offers a good locator for local shelters (search down for "Los Angeles County"), with phone numbers and Web sites.