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Gulf Coast: How we can Work Together to Help Communities in Need

There’s no way to sugarcoat it (or try to make it look better than it is) — what happened in the Gulf has been a disaster for the surrounding wildlife and communities. Here in Austin, we’re fortunate to not be directly affected, but we’re only a few hundred miles from the Louisiana coastline – and […]

There’s no way to sugarcoat it (or try to make it look better than it is) — what happened in the Gulf has been a disaster for the surrounding wildlife and communities. Here in Austin, we’re fortunate to not be directly affected, but we’re only a few hundred miles from the Louisiana coastline – and many within our family of customers have been strongly affected by the event. Even restaurants far from the coast that serve seafood are seeing sales decline as consumers are wary of fish that may originate from the Gulf region.

As our most recent question for our Facebook contest, we wanted to ask our users how they have been personally (and professionally) affected by the oil spill — or even if they have not, what they could possibly do to help those that are. We have been humbled by your responses and great ideas, and a number of you had questions about what you could do to help. So, we wanted to put together a list of ideas for how you can help, and reputable organizations in case you are looking to donate your time or resources to clean up and help the people and wildlife in these communities return to normalcy.

Before we dive into that list, we wanted to mention how we are going to do our part – I’ve started personally calling some of our affected customers in the area to offer our support, and we are going to waive our monthly subscription fee for two months for about 25 of our customers that we identified as independently-owned small businesses in the region. It may only a drop in the bucket, but it’s one way that we can directly give back to restaurants and small business owners that are struggling as a result of the crisis.

And now, here are some ideas that you have provided, along with others that we brainstormed and some great organizations that are helping with the cause. We strongly encourage you to do your part to bring aid to these communities.

Support brands and products that are donating to the cause. Lots of businesses throughout the nation will donate a percentage of purchases to causes like this one – be on the lookout and make sure to let your friend and families know. One example is Dawn dish soap, who will donate $1 per purchase – but be sure to look for caveats – in this case, you have to visit dawnsaveswildlife.com to activate the donation.
*Pool server tipshare to donate. *Pool tipshare on Fridays and Saturday nights for a month and donate 1% to Gulf Coast rehabilitation (a great idea from users Shannon Chappell and Cassie Leah Pruiksma)
Look for benefits and fundraisers in your area. For example, Jay Leno will perform in Biloxi, Mississippi on August 21 to benefit the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Entertainment + making a difference is hard to beat! 
*If you choose to donate, make sure you choose a reputable organization. *Many people like to donate to churches or small organizations in the affected areas, so they know their funds are going directly to solving the problem instead of caught up in overhead with a large organization.  Here’s a list of groups from The Daily Green that are working on the oil spill and all have 3- and 4-star ratings on charitynavigator.org

National Audubon Society is working to aid birds and habitat affected by the spill.

National Wildlife Federation is responding to the spill

Greater New Orleans Foundation is assisting locally

Matter of Trust is accepting donations of hair, fur and nylons, which are used to aid in the oil response.

Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, which protects important shorebird habitat in the Gulf and throughout the Americas, will be documenting damage to birds and striving to restore them.
If you have the ability, choose one of these organizations and put out a jar at your restaurant to encourage your customers to donate. Include information on the jar about the organization the funds will go to. 
Adopt a bird, spread the word via Twitter and Facebook, donate to help Louisiana fishermen, and more. CNN ran a great piece in June with a handful of unique ideas for how you can help. Check out Newsweek’s ideas, too.
Volunteer to clean up. If you live in or near the affected areas, get a group of friends together and get your hands dirty helping out with clean-up efforts. The government has a hotline for volunteers at 1-866-448-5816. Most organizations are encouraging people not to travel to volunteer (more oil!), and many are referring volunteers to each state for detailed opportunities, as they will change over time: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida.

Thanks again for sharing the ways in which some of you have helped or are thinking of helping with the Gulf response. Feel free to leave more in the comments on the blog or on Facebook! Tomorrow, we’ll post the randomly-selected winner to this round of the Facebook contest and post question #5.

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