Students pictured above during clean-up efforts after Hurricane Katrina from the University of Richmond. Shulman volunteered with her fellow classmates from the New College of Florida.

This hurricane season, we have witnessed unprecedented natural disasters and the humanitarian crises that follow these events. At Triangle Community Foundation, moments after we’ve arrived in the morning, our fund holders are calling to make grant recommendations to the effected communities. Each time a massive hurricane wreaked havoc on a community, this happened. As part of the Donor Services team, I am humbled by the overwhelming generosity and consistency of our donors in times like these.

Twelve years ago, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the southeast. As a Floridian who is intimately familiar with the damage a hurricane can impart, I eagerly joined a caravan from my college to aid in grassroots disaster relief in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. I spent a week in a hazmat suit, gutting houses so that residents could eventually move back home and begin to put their lives back together. I will never forget seeing overturned cars in trees and puddles of bright green chemical sludge in street gutters headed to the sewer. But alongside that wreckage were communities of people, local and not local, coming together to rebuild a neighborhood. That week (and the following spring break, when I returned to volunteer again) made an everlasting impression on me. The strength of coming together to help each other in a time of need cannot be overemphasized. Communities facing disaster and especially the local nonprofits in those areas need immediate resources to hasten recovery efforts. In the days following natural disaster, it is the nonprofit “social first responders” who help residents meet their needs and direct external sources flocking to help the priorities for their community.

With a baby at home, I will not be going to the Caribbean to participate in relief efforts, however I have donated to a relief organization on the ground. And so have our fund holders. As of October 1, our donors have put forward $103,885 in disaster relief funding for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. This funding supported different organizations, including the Houston Community Foundation, the Miami Foundation, Hispanics in Philanthropy and the Red Cross.

The type of responsive philanthropy I have recently witnessed at the Foundation is a “both and” approach. Funding both local causes (73% of our grants stay in the Triangle) and national calls to action in times of crisis, donors at the Foundation are responding to both basic national needs and long-term community “thrivival” (if you will).

In a world where zip codes are the strongest determining factor in life success, spending outside of your region in times of crisis is incredibly important to ensure that we are creating a more equitable world. I applaud our fund holders who have stepped up and fueled the recovery efforts.

Wondering how Triangle Community Foundation can have so many donors? Watch this video to learn what a Community Foundation does.

Contributing writer Laurel Shulman is the Foundation’s Donor Services Associate.