Penny Severance, owner of Perley Farm in Royalton, VT, overwhelmed by Hurricane Irene's devastation and her community's generosity. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Penny Severance, owner of Perley Farm in Royalton, VT, overwhelmed by Hurricane Irene's devastation and her community's generosity. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Helping communities rebuild

It’s what community foundations do in the wake of natural disasters. Learn how you can pitch in

Last week, my friend Nelson Colon was relieved. Hurricane Irma had not hit his home in Puerto Rico as hard as it could have, although hundreds of thousands of residents were without power and there was extensive flooding. Nelson runs the community foundation there (Fundacion Comunitaria – de Puerto Rico) and he knows and loves the island as intimately as I do New Hampshire. On the phone he was describing the resilience of his neighbors, who already face hardships and economic stresses that are hard for us to imagine.

As I write this Wednesday morning, Maria is pounding San Juan and the rest of Puerto Rico with a fury unmatched in the last century. We won’t know the extent of the damage, but it will be tremendous. Nelson and his family are in my heart today. I know that he will be at the heart of recovery efforts tomorrow.

I know that because it is what community foundations do: lean in to big problems. It is what Vermont Community Foundation did after Irene, and what the Tulsa and Oklahoma City Community Foundations do after tornadoes. And it is what community foundations in Mexico will do after yesterday’s devastating earthquake.

And I know that because I am also in touch with my friends Javier Soto of the Miami Foundation and Steve Maislin of the Greater Houston Community Foundation. Both were ready before the storms hit and are now fully engaged as partners with relief agencies and local government. Our friends at The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands are collecting and distributing funds to help the island rebuild. If you want to pitch in, several ways are included in this blog post. We will add links for Puerto Rico and Mexico City as soon as they become available.

To the people of Puerto Rico and Mexico City, you are in our thoughts. You are part of our community, too.