I’ve been to and observed many disasters and the scenes often are heartbreaking. The generosity of the American people shines during these times. But the urge to help can have unforeseen results when donations of unneeded and unwanted items are sent to the disaster area.
Volunteers and staff are taken from providing direct services to survivors to managing donations — which need to be sorted, transported, and most likely warehoused before being distributed. And for all the things that can’t be distributed there is the added cost of disposal.
The best donation you can make is money. Donations to a reputable disaster agency allows the organization to purchase needed resources from local vendors, which also will help those businesses begin the recovery process and stimulates the local economy.
The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (N-VOAD) has a list of member organizations on their website at www.nvoad.org. Also, all living former presidents have joined together to support the survivors of the current disasters and you can donate to their effort at OneAmericaAppeal.org.
If you are moved to go help survivors, please work with a recognized organization as unaffiliated volunteers can create an additional burden. Additionally, when you are working with a voluntary or charitable organization the hours you work are tracked and this is important because FEMA allows the state and local governments to use volunteer hours to help offset the match to federal dollars. The N-VOAD website can help you register to volunteer.
Former FEMA Region VII Administrator