This is going to be long and emotionally charged. Because I am going to do my best to convince you where you should send your money. At first, when Hurricane Harvey's devastation began, I felt sort of disconnected.I think I was subconsciously avoiding following it- distancing myself from it- because I already have too much on my heart and I knew it would overcome me if I started paying too much attention. Then, I realized I actually have people whom I love in the thick of it. It was very privileged of me to think I could just not think of it and avoid mental distress. It must be really nice for me to have that option, considering the destruction, danger, devastation, and distress so many people are being forced to endure. I bet they wish they could just "block it out" and avoid dealing with it as it if it weren't happening. I am humbled and remorseful for how I felt. It was really self centered of me.
If you want to send your money somewhere that will make a big impact, on a personal level (especially to me), without sending through an organization that may end up using some portion of donations just to run itself... please send money to one of my greatest long distance friends. All week long, she has watched her neighborhood come under siege, her street has been flooded waist high, she's been stranded in her home. But their home somehow remained dry. Even though the water surrounded them, they had no where else to go. (Just like SO many other people!) however, as of last night, they have started taking on water. She has 5 beautiful biological kids, whom I have watched grow for many years from afar. Her oldest has 21q deletion, and she's pregnant with her 6th. Her partner also has 2 children so they actually have 7, almost 8 children. And now they have no home. They are both veterans. She has been a LARGE influence in the expansion of the birth community, she's been with us since the largest birth empowerment group (BWF) was literally only 200 of us. (I'm pretty certain it's like 100,000 people now, IDK, I left many years ago when it started evolving into something I wasn't really fond of.)
She is so strong, and has touched many lives because of her honesty and openness about struggles, real life, mental illness, and parenthood. I know she has pulled me out of dark places many times. She deserves to know her family is valued and will be safe after this is over. I don't know tons about Heath, except that he is a solid rock for their kids, he makes Katy very happy, and they are a team. They already don't have "much", as far as belongings are concerned. I know she is determined to do her best to guard what they DO have, and try to protect their space, so they can at least keep looters out after the water recedes. She wants to have the ability to gather their stuff before they find somewhere permanent to live. I would also venture to say (which may be presumptuous of me) that feeling the water slowly surround her and close in on her without being able to control it... is triggering some PTSD from her deployment and tactical training. It seems like the water would feel like an attack from enemies. I can only imagine what kind of internal battle this is causing, as well. For both of them!
My heart is breaking for them. It's hard to understand what being responsible for such a large family is like, unless you also have one. You can't just go and stay at a friend's house for a couple months until you get on your feet. You can't rent a hotel room, because they require that you to get at least 2 rooms, maybe three. You can barely afford to keep them fed and clothed in the FIRST PLACE, and then everything you've bled to provide for them is taken out from underneath you before you can even comprehend what is happening. All pictures, baby clothes, physical memorabilia of your 7 children's lives...irreplaceable items. Not to mention all of the non sentimental things you have provided for your family that just take thousands of dollars to replace. Cabinets, a pantry, a fridge and a deep freezer full of food. Clothing and shoes for 7 growing children. Books. Towels and linens. How much would it cost JUST to provide UNDERWEAR, SOCKS AND BRAS for 9 people? In one transaction? At least $150! Just undergarments! Everything you have in your bathroom closets, bedroom closets, coat closets, things hanging on the wall, the stuff that fills your kitchen drawers, the stuff your kids play with, learn from, entertain themselves with, all of your long term clothing storage that maybe all your other kids have worn and you're passing down as younger children grow... blankets, pillows, mattresses, dressers, dishes, glasses, gadgets for the kitchen like your toaster, blender, weird utensils, silverware, your instant pot, crock pot, etc...all the appliances you own, even your washer and dryer. Appliances alone cost $3,000 at the cheapest to replace! And it's impossible to NOT have a deep freezer with that many people in your family, so that's another added cost. All the things you don't think about like the toilet paper you have stocked up, your back up personal care items, all your makeup, rugs for the floor, couches, chairs, bookshelves, I could go on and on! Even if you have only the bare minimum of these things, can you imagine having NONE of it? Even the things that don't get physically wet, will likely have to be tossed because of moisture in the air, bacteria, mold, etc. plus, they will have no where to store anything while they secure housing. Which by itself will be a near impossible task, especially if they are trying to get disaster assistance. With such a large family, you literally cannot live somewhere without certain amount of bedrooms and living space. Even for us, with only 5 kids, we only have 3 bedrooms (which makes them all bunk up in groups of 2 and 3) and we barely have enough space. And it was pretty much the only option around- bigger places are near impossible to find...and our rent is $1,100 per month...and were not even fighting against millions of other people in the area who have been displaced as well!
I think about how many electronics for my kids we have- (although second-hand) and it crushes me to think about having to replace them. Without tragic circumstances, we could barely give them old iPods, old versions of DSs, dirt cheap TVs for their rooms for Christmas, my (cheap) computer that I need to make money, our TV that was gifted to us, etc. Even at the lowest cost, we'd never be able to replace those things. For a while, obviously those types of things won't be a priority for their family, but at some point, they will be trying to move on from the tragedy. They deserve to be able to try to give their kids a basic sense of normalcy- they've never been extravagant anyway. But it's very likely they won't be able to even think about those types of things and that's just not fair. They didn't make poor decisions that landed them homeless, and regardless, their kids didn't have anything to do with it- and they deserve to have the bare minimum. At least.
Just trying to feed and house a 9 person family on an emergency basis is almost impossible. There's no where to store or cook foods, even shelf stable, quick processed foods. All of their meals will have to be eaten out. Shelters are full, there are almost no resources. Rescues are almost all being done by public volunteers. Things are scary and disorganized and chaotic. Millions of people are fighting for the same help. Like I said, you can't just go to a friend's house. The sheer number of you restricts your options to almost nothing. You're on your own.
I don't know what their plans are. I don't think they do either, because they can't afford costs so large, on such short notice. And there are not enough emergency assistance resources for the public right now. It's not likely to get better because we all know there's no one heading the Disaster Relief department or whatever it's called. (Thanks Orange Dictator). But maybe if they have some money in their pocket, options will open up. Like the short term safety of shelter for their kids in a hotel room for a while, food in their bellies and some emergency clothing on their backs. If they have some money, they can at least go LOOKING to put a deposit and 1st months rent down somewhere.
Disasters like this have a ripple effect. Cost of housing sky rockets because of high demand. But the quality of living conditions plummets because people take what they can get, and landlords know they don't have to do much to maintain the homes because the residents don't have any other options.
Jobs are scarce afterwards because so many businesses were flooded and people no longer have jobs. They don't have cars anymore so they can't drive to work, so they have to look for employment closer to their new homes. Many factors cause the market to be saturated with too many employees and not enough employers.
Life is just going to be really hard for Katy and Heath for a long time.
Even if they decide to move out of state to avoid all of the long term local effects, the cost of moving thousands of miles with 7 kids is insurmountable. I don't even know if that's an option because of custody and court orders etc. The bottom line is that there is no scenario in which things are not near impossible for them.
All the while, they're preparing to celebrate the birth of a new baby boy in just a few short months.
Please, please, please help. Please. She's too humble to ask. I'm doing it for them. She'll probably be mad. I don't care. I refuse to let them flounder (I promise I didn't intend that pun ) and do nothing. I can't do much from Iowa, but I can do this. I have a lot of amazing friends, and so do they, so I am really hoping we can pull through for her. Thank you for taking the time to read this if you made it all the way through! Even $10 can provide food for a couple of their kids for one meal. Every dollar will make a significant impact for them. It can be the difference between homelessness and safety. Hunger and being fed. Having adequate clothing or not. Rehabilitating their lives or having to split up their family and send their kids off to separate family members to keep them safe, if they can't get back on their feet. Who knows what the future could hold for them. Both short term and long term. And money is literally the deciding factor. Seriously. Money is the bottom line. For all the victims down there! They aren't the only ones who need help, but you can send your donations to a family that you can be assured needs it desperately. And sending it to them specifically will allow you to know where it went and how much it helped.
I'm editing to add a little info. GoFundMe is really working hard to prevent scams. They have contacted me and asked me to specify some info in this section- so a I am doing that! It's inconvenient because it puts funds on hold, but we do truly appreciate them working so hard to keep the campaigns truthful. Doing that helps the legitimate campaigns like ours from being viewed in a crummy way!
I'm Allison Cameron and I live in Iowa.
I will have zero access to the money raised- I have full power of withdrawal to Katelyn Johnson. Katy lives in Texas and has been flooded out of her home with her 7 children and partner, Heath Brandt. She will withdraw money raised to pay for repairs, food, replacement clothing, furniture, or payment for a new apartment.
She already has her bank linked to the campaign, but has not withdrawn anything yet. I have also already linked her to this account and she has full access to update, view donations, and monitor all things that happen. I am totally uninvolved, except that I started the campaign for her family and continue to promote it and manage the behind the scenes stuff so she doesn't have to deal with it.
Hopefully that's enough information for GGM, and the money can be released for Katy! I'm emailing them now and they'll review the account and reopen the funds. In the meantime, donations can still be made! Please do anything you can, and if you cannot donate, please share!
- Shaunta Johnson
- Shaunta Johnson
- Todd Howell
- Elaine Luchini
- Justin Hamm
Organizer and beneficiary
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