The images are horrific. The news - from family and friends, as well as the all consuming national media - tells the story.

Texas is in dire straights. Towns have been devastated as homes, businesses, roads and more have been impacted by flooding waters and rain.

It's a scene similar to those impacted by the Montana fires. Homes, businesses and in some cases large chucks of towns, have been destroyed because of the wildfires.

It's hard to watch. Our natural instinct is to help - and help we should.

But our assistance should actually benefit those in need.

For example, it's easy to gather stuff - clothes and household items - and think, well, these are basic needs, we should send them. It's our automatic response.

Stuff, at this point in the process, unless it fills a specific, immediate need, becomes something that requires attention - often needing storage space, which is in short supply - and diverts resources from the immediate needs.

Items sent in good faith, often becomes a second disaster and leaves people struggling under the weight of the donations.

So how can we, here in Delaware County, help people in Texas or Montana? 

First, find a national charity you know funds are being used specifically for disasters. Personally, in times of national crisis, I donate funds through UMCOR - the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

I've worked alongside UMCOR volunteers in the past. One hundred percent of funds donated for disasters helps those in need. Monies for operational expenses come through the United Methodist Church as a whole. Donations do not fund administrative costs.

UMCOR officials not only collects funds, but volunteers also put together cleaning buckets and health kits, with tangible items people in the immediate days of recovery and cleanup need.

Items such as a five gallon bucket with resealable lid, liquid laundry detergent, liquid household cleaners, dish soap, air freshener, insect repellant, scrub brush, cleaning wipes, handi wipes or reusable wipes, sponges, scouring pads, clothes pins, clothes line, heavy duty trash bags, dust masks, dishwashing gloves and work gloves, can be found within the cleaning bucket kits.

The health/hygiene kit contains a hand town, washcloth, comb, nail file, nail clippers, bath-sized soap, tooth brush, adhesive bandages, common bandaids, a plastic one gallon bag, and $1 to purchase toothpaste (because it can spoil during long-term storage).

Find out more about the hygiene kits - and the specifics needed visit: http://bit.ly/umcorhygiene - hygiene kits.

Find out more about the cleaning buckets/kits - and the specific requirements - visit =: http://bit.ly/umcorcleaning.

Want to help, but would rather donate funds directly to UMCOR? Here's two ways: Donate online using a secure website at http://bit.ly/UMCORSecureGiving; or donate through First United Methodist Church in Grove using a check, made out to the church and in the memo line place Harvey/UMCOR. For more information, persons interested may call 918-786-5148.

We can also find churches, with volunteers on the front lines of the disaster, and come behind them to provide support.

At least two churches (I'm sure I'll learn of more in the coming days), where I have primary connections (aka I went to school with some of the pastors) are working "boots on the ground" to help people within the greater-Houston region.

Friends in ministry at Chapelwood United Methodist Church, in Houston, are finding ways to fill specific needs of those within their sphere of influence.

The needs, which can be found here: www.chapelwood.org/harveyhelp, include everything from organizing work crews, gathering cleaning supplies - truly the biggest need - and also hosting childcare in the coming days for children in need of a blessing.

Other friends, who are connected to WordServe Church in Fulshear, Texas, are organizing work crews to go out and help those within the Fulshear/Simonton area begin cleanup efforts.

The church's website and Facebook page contains additional information about needs, as well as how the funds/supplies are being used: www.facebook.com/wordserve or http://wordserve.org/flood-relief.

For those living in Montana, my friend and bestselling author Tricia Goyer posted a way to help members of the West Kootenai [Montana] Amish immediately.

The community has lost more than 40 structures, including homes and businesses to the fires, as well as clothing - which cannot be purchased from a store.

A way to help involves buying an e-gift card to Lowes or Joanne's Fabrics, via Amazon. Martha Artyomenko, a friend of Goyer's, who grew up in the area, has volunteered to be a collection site. She will print off the e-cards sent to her, and take them to the community.

The links include Joanne Fabrics: http://amzn.to/2wDTUes or Lowes: http://amzn.to/2eBcNH3. Artyomenko's email is martha@lclink.com. Additional information about the needs may be found on Goyer's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/authortriciagoyer.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn may have summed up my feelings the best: "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse."

Now is the time to help others. Find a way to help that is trustworthy. Don't come up with an excuse, instead use your resources to help rather than hinder others in this time of national crisis. 

Find a way to serve. If we've learned anything from being neighbors to Joplin, this disaster will last longer than the news cameras remain. People in Texas will be cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey for years to come. Find a way to plug in, dig in and help. 

Because, we know, just as we are #OklahomaStrong, and they are #TexasStrong and #MontanaStrong, when it comes down to it, we're all #AmericaStrong.

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller is the managing editor of The Grove Sun and Delaware County Journal. Have an idea for a column or story? She can be reached at khutson@grovesun.com or 918-786-2228.

Want to help?

UMCOR Help

Complete details on assembling hygiene/health kits and cleaning buckets through the United Methodist Committee on Relief may be found here:

http://bit.ly/umcorhygiene - hygiene kits.

http://bit.ly/umcorcleaning - cleaning kits.

http://bit.ly/UMCORSecureGiving - Secure giving online through UMCOR.

See realtime pictures of what UMCOR is doing by visiting www.facebook.com/UMCOR.

Local Donations

Want to donate to UMCOR, via a local church using a check? Monetary donations may be taken locally to First United Methodist Church, during regular business hours.

Checks should be made out to First UMC, and in the memo line place Harvey/UMCOR. All funds with this designation will be directed to UMCOR. The church is located at 1005 Leisure Road, in Grove. For more information, persons interested may call 918-786-5148.

Front Line Assistance

Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston has created an online portal with information about volunteering or making donations. It can be found here: www.chapelwood.org/harveyhelp.

WordServe Church in Fulshear, is tracking flood relief efforts on its Facebook page and website: www.facebook.com/wordserve or http://wordserve.org/flood-relief.

Help in Montana

The West Kootenai [Montana] Amish have lost more than 40 structures, including homes and businesses to the fires.

My friend and bestselling author, Tricia Goyer, said the community is in need of tools and fabric - because they can't just buy clothes from the store.

A way to help involves purchasing an e-gift card to Lowes or Joanne's Fabrics, via Amazon. Martha Artyomenko, a friend of Goyer's, who grew up in the area, will print off the e-cards sent to her, and take them to the community.

The links include Joanne Fabrics: http://amzn.to/2wDTUes or Lowes: http://amzn.to/2eBcNH3. Artyomenko's email is martha@lclink.com.

Additional information about the needs may be found on Goyer's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/authortriciagoyer.