As climate change grows more serious, families worldwide are being increasingly impacted by floods, tornados, wildfires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Kentucky is merely the most recent example.
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Extreme natural disasters have become a fixture in the news in recent years, largely as a result of the worsening fallout from climate change. The impact of such disasters can be catastrophic, destroying homes, entire communities, water sources, and even upending entire ways of life.

Just this past week, more than 80 people lost their lives during a devastating and historic outbreak of tornadoes that impacted six states before all was said and done. Four states, in particular, were the hardest hit—Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee, with Graves County, Kentucky sustaining the most severe damage and loss of life.

Countless families are caught up in these devastating events when they occur and are left to pick up the pieces and rebuild. For those who may be searching for ways to help such families, it's important to know that there are many leading charitable organizations focused on responding to everything from hurricanes and floods to wildfires and tornados. And while giving money might not feel as hands-on as volunteering amid a crisis, your money can and does help.

"There are many trustworthy nonprofits with a proven track record that are providing relief and recovery to impacted communities," Kevin Scally, of Charity Navigator, a platform that rates charities by evaluating their financial health, accountability, and transparency, tells Parents. "You don't need to be a wealthy philanthropist to help. Any donation will make a difference. Just be sure to give with your head, as well as your heart."

In response to the most recent tornadoes in the southern United States, Charity Navigator has created a curated list of highly-rated, impactful charities that are busy working to provide relief and recovery to families affected.

"Times of crisis often bring out the best in Americans," continues Scally, noting that donors can give with confidence to the organizations on Charity Navigator's newly curated list, knowing that their donations will be supporting vetted, trustworthy nonprofits.

Here's a closer look at some of the organizations identified by Charity Navigator that are focused on supporting children and families.

MAP International

A Christian organization, MAP International's efforts are primarly focused on bringing critical medicine and health supplies to those in need. During disasters, MAP International steps in to provide immediate humanitarian support to those who are suddenly homeless and lacking access to the most basic services.

The orgranization was founded in 1954 and is among the 100 largest nonprofits in the country. MAP International serves about 10 million people around the globe each year and provides services to those in need regardless of religion, gender, race, nationality, or ethnic background.

Operation USA

Operation USA was one of many organizations that jumped in to provide assistance after Hurricane Ida, the category 4 storm that struck Louisiana. It was also very active in the response to the earthquake in Haiti and the wildfires in the western United States.

Founded in 1979, Operation USA provides on-the-ground aid including sending vital supplies and cash grants designed to assist communities in rebuilding. The organization specializes in supporting vulnerable populations who are in the greatest need, but may be overlooked by governments or other organizations.

In response to the tornados that occurred this past week in Kentucky and beyond, Operation USA says it is currently "preparing to send aid as much as funds and opportunities allow," according to its website, adding: "In Kentucky—where damage appears to be the greatest, we are in contact with community-based partners to whom we hope to deliver in-kind material aid and cash grants."

Donations from the public at this time will make delivery of aid possible. The organization is also seeking corporate partners who can donate bulk quantities of disaster-appropriate supplies including blankets, bottled water, hygeine supplies, baby supplies, and new or unused clothing and shoes.

An image of damage from Hurricane Ida in Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Credit: Getty Images.

American Red Cross

One of the most well-known disaster relief organizations in this country, the American Red Cross works to ensure people have clean water, safe shelter, and hot meals when emergency strikes. ARC responds to about 60,000 disasters every single year, including hurricanes, wildfires, and floods.

Direct Relief

Listed by Charity Navigator as one of the top organizations supporting those impacted by wildfires in the western United States, the humanitarian organization Direct Relief is active in all 50 states and focuses on improving the lives of people affected by emergencies and disasters.

Direct Relief is currently responding to the fallout from the tornadoes that impacted the southern United States. Its efforts have included shipping over-the-counter products and supplies to locations in western Kentucky, Arkansas, and Mississippi. The supplies being provided to families and individuals in need include nutritional supplements, allergy medications, aspirin, and pediatric care items.

In addition, to help address power supply shortages, Direct Relief has also shipped two SunKit portable solar generators. Donations to the organization help support these and other response efforts. Direct Relief's donation policy ensures that 100 percent of contributions that have been designated for a specific program or emergency response be used only for efforts supporting that program. 

Americares

Americares has been busy responding to everything from Hurricane Ida in Louisiana to the earthquake in Haiti over the past few weeks and months. The organization is focused on saving lives and improving the health of people affected by disaster or poverty. In 2020, Americares responded to 26 natural disasters, manmade crises, and disease outbreaks, including 12 in the United States. Their efforts over the past year have also included responding to a season of record-breaking hurricanes and wildfires. Like the others on this list, Americares receives top marks from Charity Navigator.

Team Rubicon

Team Rubicon is also among the organizations on the ground right now in Kentucky to help respond to the tornado damage.

The organization, whose disaster response work is 100 percent funded by donations, relies on utilizing the unique skills and experience of veterans to respond to disasters. It sends veteran-led teams of volunteers to disaster zones to provide support and assistance. Support provided by Team Rubicon includes home rebuilding, route clearance, residential debris removal, water damage mitigation, and emergency medical support.

Center for Disaster Philanthropy

A Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy seeks to create a world where the impact of disasters is minimized by "thoughtful, equitable, and responsible recovery." It works to leverage the power of philanthropy to provide a full range of resources to those impacted, as well as to help communities withstand disasters.

CDP's focus and emphasis is on medium- and long-term recovery, and equity-focused disaster support. Their efforts include directing financial and technical support where it is needed most.

All Hands and Hearts Smart Response

Created to effectively and efficiently address the immediate and also long-term needs of those impacted by natural disasters, this volunteer-powered relief organization is focused on helping families recover quickly after such crises.

The organization's mission typically includes communicating directly with local leaders and community members in areas impacted by disasters, and then deploying volunteers to enable direct impact—helping to build safer, more resilient schools, homes, and infrastructure.

Ninety-five cents of every dollar donated to All Hands and Hearts Smart Response is used to fund its programs.

Convoy of Hope

A faith-based nonprofit organization, Convoy of Hope focuses on children's feeding initiatives, which include disaster response efforts during times of floods, tornados, droughts, and more. Convoy of Hope has been on the ground for several days now providing relief in communities across tornado disaster zone in the southern United States.

The nonprofit's efforts have included providing winter clothing, generators, and sheltering supplies to survivors. In addition, Convoy of Hope has already distributed more than 180,000 pounds of food, water, and relief supplies to those in seven communities. The organization says it intends to remain in the area, providing support for survivors, over the long-term. Donations to support Convoy of Hope's efforts can be made here.

Feed the Children

A well-known organization focused on feeding hungry kids, Feed the Children also works to help families and communities achieve stable lives.

Some of the organization's efforts include distributing product donations from corporations to local communities, and mobilizing aid in response to natural disasters. Feed the Children is working with its partners to provide food, water and other essentials to those impacted by the tornadoes in the southern United States.

Additional resources

This list merely scratches the surface of the options available for supporting charitable organizations that respond to natural disasters and assist families. Charity Navigator provides vetted lists of nonprofit and charitable organizations organized by topic, including those focused on providing hurricane relief, wildfire relief, and support in response to the earthquake in Haiti.