Iowa Flood: How You Can Help

Whenever I read about a natural disaster in the news, I think — like most people would, I guess — about the people I know who might be affected. Usually, if I know anyone in the area that got hit, a quick e-mail or phone call finds that they and all their loved ones are fine. So when I e-mailed a friend who lives in Iowa City — our own Shapeling Sumac — the other day, I was expecting to hear pretty much that.

Instead, I heard this:

Thanks for checking in, dude. Things are bad–my mom lost her house, my stepdad lost his house, my sister and her husband, who lived at my mom’s, lost all their stuff.

The only good thing is that the water crested yesterday, so it’s not going to get higher. My mom’s house is apparently still standing (with water well into her second story–and her first story is raised 8 feet above the ground), but some of the neighbors’ houses are totally just gone.

Right now we’re trying to find housing for the four of them, but it’s hard. All the leases end at the end of July and local landlords are being fuckheads about helping flood victims with flexible leasing or month-to-months.

But besides that everything’s fine. I’m not being snarky. We really are fine, just kind of shaken and stressed. We’re healthy and my mom and stepdad have flood insurance (most of the victims of this flood don’t) so they’ll be able to rebuild their homes quite easily when the water clears out.

I asked her if there’s anything people can do, beyond the obvious. Are there charities besides the Red Cross that seem to be doing good stuff on the ground? Anything I could use my little bloggy megaphone to promote?

She replied:

I haven’t heard of anyone else taking donations so far, other than Red Cross. I know the last time the river flooded, the Mennonites did a ton of rebuilding for people. I have no reason to think they won’t be helping this time too. It’s just that rebuilding is still a few months out. But their work is especially important for people who did not have insurance and who will not have money to hire contractors to rebuild. The Mennonite Disaster Service website is here.

Other than that, there’s not a lot to be done. Maybe watch the news and, if your readers are in the area, come down for what is sure to be a monumental clean-up for the cities of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids after the waters completely recede. I mean, the sandbags alone are going to be a total mess.

Then later, she forwarded me an e-mail from none other than Barack Obama, suggesting the following:

If you are able to assist in flood relief efforts, there are many ways to help your neighbors in Iowa. Here are some resources to get involved:

  • Call 2-1-1:When you call 2-1-1, you can receive information on flood-related assistance, including road closings, evacuation and shelter information. Opportunities to help are available by zip code, so anyone can find out where to help near their home.
  • Iowa Concern Hotline:
    Volunteer hotline for people who wish to help in recovery efforts.
  • Iowa City Flood Hotline:
  • Johnson County Emergency Management:
  • Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Service Program — Cedar Rapids: 319-378-0337

Shapelings, if you have any other suggestions, please leave them in comments. One thing I do know is that plus-size clothing donations are usually in short supply after events like this, so I’ll see if I can find out where to send them.

Update: Red Cross is handling the clothing donations, and apparently only drop-offs. If you’re in the area and want to donate, call (800) 733-2767 to make sure they’re still looking for what you’ve got. (My guess is, yes, they’ll be looking for stuff above a size 16 for women, at least.)

Laurie suggested contacting the Humane Society to see about helping homeless pets. My guess here is that foster homes near the area will be especially helpful, since so many people are moving into temporary housing where pets aren’t allowed.

And Tom Hilton over at Shakesville offered this link for info on where volunteer sandbaggers and the like are needed.

33 thoughts on “Iowa Flood: How You Can Help”

  1. Okay, this is going to be the nerdiest thing I’ve ever said on the blog, and I’ve made some comments that consist entirely of Douglas Adams quotes.

    But if you really want to help out in future emergencies? Get a ham radio license.

    There, I said it.

    I’m a little embarrassed to mention this even as a YL (ham’s girlfriend) because there’s a lot of paranoid-emergency-preparedness/just-for-fun infighting, but in a genuine emergency it is really useful to have hams on hand. Infrastructure-free communication can be crucial in an emergency that knocks out power and cell phone coverage. This doesn’t help now, of course, but if you’re concerned about future emergencies it’s one way to go. Here’s an article about hams helping out with the midwest floods.

  2. *cough*

    Young lady.

    A wife?

    Is an XYL.

    (Dan is usually very nice about not calling me his YL when talking to other hams, but I actually don’t mind it and think it’s kind of cute.)

    Hams also call any female operator YL (male operators are OM). It’s a bit of a sexist hobby. And by “a bit” I mean “Dan often has to go on feminist rampages, which don’t destroy his reputation only because he’s such a fucking great ham.” But if you can put up with old men being old men (being OMs), it’s really great for emergency services.

  3. So, I presume that the male significant other’s of female ham radio operators are also called YLs???? RIGHT???

  4. I shoulda just made something up.

    Like when YM magazine changed from “Young Miss” to “Young and Modern”! (Then went out of business!)

    “Your ladyship,” perhaps?

  5. I don’t actually read first, then comment. I mean, this is the internet right?

    Of course! If you read first, you might say something RELEVANT. Can’t have that on the internet!

  6. So, I presume that the male significant other’s of female ham radio operators are also called YLs???? RIGHT???

    This is a widespread and ongoing question, and by “widespread” I mean “among me and Dan, nobody else cares because there are so few female hams anyway.”

    Which is another reason y’all should sign up. Also you get to learn Morse code. Though you can do that anyway (I did).

  7. And btw, uh, serious flood talk is still welcome in this thread — and I hope we don’t learn that Shapelings other than the friend in question (who can out herself here if she likes) have been affected. If you have, of course our thoughts are with you.

  8. Yeah, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hijack — it started as a serious suggestion, really!

  9. No prob. I’m a big believer in laughing in the face of tragedy, anyway. (And so is the friend in question, at least, if not other victims.)

  10. I fostered (& then adopted) my first cat when St. Louis had those once-in-a-lifetime floods in 1993 (it flooded the freakin’ Arch).

    Go to The Humane Society US for information on how to help flooded animals (& the owners who can’t help their own animals).


  11. Oh that’s such a great idea. Yes. Let’s not forget the animals.

    I’m just thankful that the (human) death toll has so far been relatively low, so we can actually DO something about the majority of the damage. Donations to the Red Cross can help when someone has lost all their possessions; they don’t really help when someone’s lost their family.

  12. Actually, Douglas Adams sounds great at a time like this. I may bop myself on down to the library after work. (I pretty much outed myself on the hair discussion a few posts ago.)

    Thanks for the post Kate. My family is coping, but, as I said in my original email to you, *most* of the victims of this flood are not insured and the waters came so fast, many people got out with just the clothes on their backs. They literally have nothing. Donations of all kinds will be put to very good use.

    The really amazing thing about all of this? No one has died or even been seriously injured. I count us lucky.

  13. sumac, we are definitely thinking about you guys. At times like this I wish I could say I’d pray for people; I won’t, but I’ll help send aid.

  14. (I pretty much outed myself on the hair discussion a few posts ago.)

    I already explained that actually reading comments violates the spirit of the internet, duh. :)

    The really amazing thing about all of this? No one has died or even been seriously injured

    Totally. Small mercies and all that.

  15. I already explained that actually reading comments violates the spirit of the internet, duh. :)

    But you are so right.

    sumac, we are definitely thinking about you guys. At times like this I wish I could say I’d pray for people; I won’t, but I’ll help send aid.

    thanks fillyjonk, well put. I appreciate it.

    Here’s another website that has info about volunteering, donations, etc.:


  16. Thanks for posting this. My family’s safe and dry out in western Iowa, but three of the Iowa communities I’ve lived in are damaged, one (Cedar Falls) severely, and Cedar Rapids just breaks my heart…

  17. I was flying in and out of O’Hare this weekend, and flying in I had no idea what was happening – all the local flights were messed up. I have some relatives who lost things in the flood. Thanks for this info.

  18. Finally, someone I can pass info onto. I went through flash flooding in the Winona, MN area exactly ten months ago, We had water filling in our basement and up seven feet on the main floor. The good news is we moved back in two months ago after living ina FEMA trailer. Things people need to know who want to help: bring large containers you can buy at Target. Things will need to be cleaned and you need something sturdy to transport them in. Everything needs to be bleached. Clothes can usually be saved, furniture not. There’s actually a lot you can save. If books are only minor damaged put them in a plastic ziploc bag and freeze them. Same with photos., I was able to save almost ALL of my photos and they sat in waTER FOR THREE days. YOu don’t even need to clkean the photos or books. Just get them in the freezer. Dishes, glass, etc. too can be saved. I wish I had tried to save more. Photo frames were saved and most bedding and towels. When you have to replace electronics, etc., it isnice to save as much of this stuff as you can. It sounds like people had warning to put the valuables uphigh.
    Good luck! I plan to come down to mud out when the water recedes.

  19. Here’s the deal, folks: I live in Rock Island. That’s 60 miles from Iowa City. I’ll make a delivery run. I own a Suburban, so I can take a substantial amount of stuff in one shot.

    I will now step back and let y’all discuss.

  20. For fans of Iowa City:

    The Johnson County Crisis Center had to evacuate–they run a food bank, so there was a LOT of moving of cans of food. They do great work, and have been scrambling to keep up with the increased need while in the midst of their own evac.


    The Iowa City Animal Shelter also had to evacuate all the animals to a safe location, as well as take in pets of those evacuating their homes.


  21. Cedar Rapids got the most international press, but Iowa City was hit very hard, too. I was staying in the campus “Iowa House Hotel” for a writing conference and was evacuated fairly last week (we were sort of at ground zero for the flood there), and it has been difficult to find more news about the situation since I managed to get back to Tennessee. I’ve posted several pictures on my blog of the sandbagging efforts I witnessed, along with a video I found of the way the university campus looked yesterday, when the river crested. You can see pics and vid here.


  22. thanks for bringing how to help to light… i live in iowa city and it’s been a horrendous experience!

  23. I am in Massachusetts and have some plus size clothing I would like to send to Iowa. Can someone provide me with where I could mail it?? Thanks!

  24. Hands On Disaster Response (HODR), a volunteer driven, 501(c)3 nonprofit, is accepting volunteers and donations to support recovery efforts in response to record breaking floods in the Midwestern US. On June 23rd HODR announced the opening of Project Cedar Rapids, which will run for 30 days and provide volunteer assistance to communities affected by the flooding. HODR has begun work in Cedar Rapids and Palo, Iowa, where we will be aiding residents in flood recovery.

    To learn more about how you can help visit http://www.hodr.org. We do not charge a participation fee to volunteer. You get yourself here, and in return we provide shelter, food, and a rewarding and unique volunteer experience. There is no minimum or maximum stay – join us for one day, one week or one month!

    We will be working alongside residents, helping with the gutting of homes, and will remain open and flexible to the changing needs of the communities. No previous experience is necessary. Our minimum age is 18 years old, unless accompanied by a parent/guardian.

    Please contact us at info@hodr.org for more information before coming.

  25. If you are looking for ways to volunteer, or need help from the floods (ie. distribution site of donations, social services, etc.) please visit the Citizen Action Team Relief Database. We have over 150 facilities entered for the affected area of flooding in IA, as well as other disasters impacting the United States. It’s a great place for donors, disaster relief folks and survivors to make matches of what is needed and see what is available, whether you are trying to rebuild your life or make an impact for a family in need.

    We also offer great volunteer opportunities that do not require you to be at ‘ground zero’. Become a virtual volunteer! If you can surf on the internet, talk on the phone and enter information, this is a simple but significant way to make an impact for our fellow neighbors recover and get back to a normal life again.

    Thank you for being in service and our prayers and thoughts are with Iowans.

    Leslie Teltoe
    National Director/Citizen Action Team Relief Database

Comments are closed.