A little over a year after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, I hosted a shopping spree at Target for families who had been heavily affected by the tempest. That catastrophic Category 4 storm caused $125 billion of damage and left more than 8,000 people displaced and staying in hotels after their homes were severely damaged. As stories of Hurricane Harvey’s victims began to emerge, I knew I had to do something to be of assistance. Many organizations rush to help when a catastrophe first happens, but as the months roll on, the reality is, those most affected continue to be in need of help. This is an opportunity I have found where you can make the most difference.
As a mother, grandmother, and godmother, it especially touched my heart that so many people were still in need of some good holiday cheer even a year after the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
My grandchildren and great-nieces accompanied the families and their little ones through Target, piling everything from pajamas to toys in their carts, and seeing the smiles on their faces was indeed the most precious gift.
My family and friends made lifelong memories that day. I can’t help but think back on that moment and smile. There is no greater feeling than lifting another person’s spirit, especially a child, after they have experienced some difficult days. Many people lost everything they had in the storm. I got to personally meet with some of the affected families, hug them, and exchange words of comfort.
It’s actually hard to put into words the profound feeling of joy giving to others truly gives me. That day, one of the women I gifted with a cart full of goodies wrote me a most cherished note on a Target bag, thanking me for this simple act of kindness. It brought me an overwhelming sense of joy as we shared a special moment together.
And giving to others has yet another plus, as I’ve recently learned: It is truly good for the heart. There are studies that have been conducted indicating that philanthropy has many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and stress levels, boosting self-esteem, and adding to overall quality of life.
We never regret the time we spend giving back. It’s the one thing we all need more of and something that offers something priceless in return. If I could bottle the feeling I experienced in Target that day, the world would be a far better place. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and not even see what’s really going on out there, especially after a natural disaster rocks a community.
Hurricane Harvey impacted so many lives in a negative way and I felt very fortunate to be able to bring some light into a challenging time for so many families.
The holiday time is always a nice time to give back, but I challenge others to try it year-round. Surprise someone in need with a cart of groceries when they least expect it.
Through my organization, the Franci Neely Foundation, I have supported more than 100 nonprofit groups. I’ve received thank-you letters over the years from some of the people whose lives I’ve touched and it means so much to me to be making a positive impact in the world.
I think there are many more people out there who are in need — sometimes of nothing more than a kind word or a compliment. On any given day, someone could feel as if the weight of the world is on their shoulders. You literally never know what someone is going through. Choosing kindness is more essential than ever.