Orlando: Kindness trumps tragedy with blood donations, water, free housing

(CNN)This is not the first time a horrendous act of violence has shaken us, and it won't be the last.

But every time we reel from such tragedies, the little acts of everyday people renew our faith in humanity.
We saw that once again in Orlando, just hours after the Pulse nightclub attack over the weekend.
    People stood in solidarity, not just at vigils of which there were many, but also through small but meaningful gestures all across the city.
    The simplest acts of kindness, Mahatma Gandhi once said, are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.
    Here are some of the ways Orlando responded:

    They donated blood

    In a powerful show of support, more than 5,300 people donated blood through the OneBlood network on Sunday -- breaking a single day record. And a day later, the lines around their blood donation centers have not dwindled. The network said it's booked with blood donation appointments until Wednesday, and are asking donors to return in the coming days because the need will still exist.
    Among those donating blood was Muslim-American Mahmoud ElAwadi, who did so while fasting for Ramadan. "Our blood all looks the same," he said.

    They handed out food and water

    Throughout the city on a hot day, Orlando residents took it upon themselves to buy bottles of water and hand them out to police, blood donors, and reporters. Near the Pulse club, volunteers in tricycles distributed free water to officers.
    Outside a blood bank location, retired Orlando Magic basketball player Bo Outlaw carried a cooler full of waters for donors and volunteers.
    The Orlando culinary community also stepped in -- giving a new meaning to the phrase "comfort food."
    The Facebook group "Culinary Cares: In Support of Pulse Orlando" helped coordinate food deliveries from chefs and restaurants who wanted to donate food to various locations -- from the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida to first responders on the scene of the crime.
    Deliveries flowed and will continue as needed, according to YMCA director of healthy eating, Gary Appelsies who started the group.
    "Food is emotional support. Food feels good. It brings people together," he said.

    They opened up their homes

    Christian West Howard owns several rental properties in the Orlando area and is offering them up free of charge to victims' families who need a place to stay.
    "We can't do anything to bring back children and siblings," Howard said. "We can try just to make this difficult time a little easier."
    He's working with a bunch of volunteers who are also offering families transportation, food and even burial plots.
    They also opened up their homes to victims' pets.
    Judy Charuhas, a clinical manager and executive director of Winter Park Lost Pets, is working to connect relatives or friends, who know of pets who have been left behind, with people offering to foster them.
    "We are compiling a list of rescues/services/people willing to hold/foster/adopt pets for victims and survivors of the Pulse Orlando shooting," Charuhas' post read. "Please comment if you are a pet service or can help in any way. Some people won't be coming home to their pet."
    The Facebook post received overwhelming feedback, with more than 1,000 comments and 5,000 shares.

    They opened up their houses of worship

    In support of those seeking food and shelter, Sikhs in Orlando opened two temples to anyone who needed it. Sikhs have often borne the backlash after any attack carried out by a radical Muslim. (They're often mistaken for Muslims because of their turban.)

    They raised money

    Mosques heeded a call by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to raise money for the Orlando community and did so through LaunchGood, a Muslim-led crowdfunding site. Meanwhile, a GoFundMe campaign by Equality Florida, the largest LGBT rights group in the state, has pulled in more than $5 million.

    They shipped supplies

    Those who couldn't be out in person ordered supplies for blood banks through Amazon Prime's same-day delivery, and urged others to do the same.

    They made a difference

    Hashtags like #OrlandoUnited, #PulseShooting and #GaysBreakTheInternet on Twitter continue to pool together words and acts of solidarity. In fact, the response has been so overwhelming that the city of Orlando has asked residents to put a pause on vigils, saying they put a strain on the city's resources.