Houston lived inside my heart and overwhelmed my thoughts this week. I took this picture in Austin’s Zilker Park during our US Roadtrip. As we drove across Texas, I remember the vastness of Houston. I can’t imagine what Houston and the many affected cities look like now.
Everywhere you turn, people are talking about Houston. While watching conversations on social media, a concern grew inside me. After a few days, I felt ready to write. Actually, I need to write about Houston. They need our help! Like you, I want to help.
I am praying. I donated money. But I cringe at posts about sending “stuff” to Texas. (School supplies, clothing, water, etc.) I am here to tell you….
Houston does not need your stuff
More posts appear every day about trucks that will deliver items to Houston. I applaud all of these well intentioned efforts but Houston residents don’t need your old sweatshirt. Donations can and will do more harm than good in this first wave of clean-up.
There are many articles written on this subject by life-long philanthropists and humanitarians. Their experience from past disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami tells us repeatedly, Houston needs financial support.
US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cautions that used clothing is “rarely a useful item” to collect and donate to disaster relief. The clothing will quickly fill warehouses or end up in the landfill with the rest of the disaster debris.
I realize that sending money doesn’t feel like enough, but a recent comment on Facebook left me speechless.
“I’m not sending money to pay someone’s salary.”
Really? You want to help but object to paying for emergency workers who work around the clock and risk their lives? What about relief workers trained to deliver, build and support mobile cities and shelters? Chefs to cook meals? Groups armed with water filters that can be delivered to where they are most needed and at a fraction of the cost of bottled water? How about the construction workers, social workers and counselors who remain on the ground for months after the headlines disappear?
“This is going to be a long-term event. We’re going to be there for a long time,” says Lt. Col. Ron Busroe, the Salvation Army’s community relations and development secretary…They also have almost 60 mobile kitchens ready to deploy around the disaster area as soon as roads are opened. But like others, Busroe knows they’ll likely have to provide food and shelter assistance well after the flood waters have receded. He predicts this disaster will affect more people and property than Hurricane Katrina did in 2005.
I want my money to pay for trained personnel who are at the ready when disaster strikes. Furthermore, I prefer to donate to the salaries of people who know how to help. People who dedicate their lives and careers to helping others. I value their expertise and efforts. Call me crazy, but I think they deserve a salary!
I tried really hard not to rant and I know that I’m a little spun up about this topic. While donating money may not feel like you’re doing something, in disasters like this, it is the very best thing that you can do. I promise.
People also ask, “Can’t I just send something useful?” You could, but the cost and logistics of shipping items could be re-allocated to purchase locally and supporting a small business owner. There is literally nowhere for it to go.
Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, has some words of caution for those who want to help.”This is not the time to be donating products or even services,” he says. “…With the floods blocking off streets, when warehouses are not available, there’s no place for these products — there’s no place to store anything, there’s no place to distribute anything. And that’s going to be the case for some time.”
But there is some good news because other areas remain unscathed and prepared to store and deliver supplies on demand from nearby cities. Thereby, reducing further burden on the affected areas
Derrick Chubbs, president and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank in Austin, agrees that cash donations are best for groups like his, which is trying to help with emergency food distributions. The Houston Food Bank* — the largest in the country — was shut down by flooding, so others in the state food bank network are pitching in.
“I say donate funds, because we can use those to purchase exactly the type of disaster relief supplies that are going to be most helpful,” Chubbs says. “It also avoids complications of sorting and having to distribute varied types of food items.”
Did you know that Newtown, Connecticut received 67,000 teddy bears after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary? They rented an entire warehouse to house all the donations received. So in the wake of such a tragedy they had a bunch of stuff to deal with. What if the money for 67,000 teddy bear funded grief counselors or helped with funeral costs?
Chris Kelsey, who worked for Newtown at the time, said they had to get a warehouse to hold all the teddy bears.“Newtown had been struck by mass murder, not a tsunami.” As Kelsey said, “I think a lot of the stuff that came into the warehouse was more for the people that sent it, than it was for the people in Newtown. At least, that’s the way it felt at the end.” Every child in Newtown got a few bears. The rest had to be sent away, along with the bikes and blankets.
Don’t have extra dollars to send? Good news, I have ideas!
- Carve off a portion of your entertainment or dining-out budget – Give up a night out for Houston
- Instead of sending used clothing – Sell them at a yard sale and donate the proceeds
- Want to get the kids involved? Encourage them to sell old toys or set up a lemonade stand and donate the profits to Houston
Where to donate? I have ideas for that too!
- Samaritan’s Purse – Recommended by Dave Ramsey, Personal Finance Expert
- UMCOR – Monetary Donations and Cleaning Kits
- *Houston Food Bank (Re-opened – Accepting donations and volunteers.)
- Central Texas Food Bank
- Legacy Collective – Recommended by Austin, Texas native and respected author Jen Hatmaker
- Click HERE for guidance to avoid scams, research charities and view a long list of vetted and reputable National and Local Organizations which support disaster relief. Choose an organization that speaks to you.
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