After a storm, how can we help most?

5/11/2011

After a major disaster strikes, compassionate people everywhere want to help. Think before you give or go. The UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) website offers these questions to guide responses that will be the most helpful.

• Is the organization reputable? How much of your gift will go to disaster response and how much will be used for administrative costs?
• If you are donating goods, has there been a direct request for the items? Sometimes it is more labor-intensive and costly to process or ship donated items than to purchase them locally.
• Does an organization at the site know you are coming as a volunteer? Often sites are very dangerous in the initial days and weeks after a disaster. In many cases there are not enough resources like housing or food for unexpected volunteers. Volunteer through a reputable agency, such as Oklahoma Volunteers In Mission (OKVIM).
Cash or clothes?
 
Should you clean out your closet and hope your castoffs will be just what people need? The answer is “no.”
 
According to the website Outfit to Go, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, piles of donated clothing were moldering along roadsides and parking lots in coastal Mississippi. After the Haiti earthquake, one U.S. town sent three semi loads of clothing to the island nation. Outfit to Go reported it takes three days to sort and prepare items in one semi load of clothing—and usually at least half the donations are unusable.
 
Money allows UMCOR to respond in the most effective, timely manner to each unique disaster. After the 2010 flooding in Nashville, Tenn., Tom Hazelwood of UMCOR explained, “As people give money to UMCOR for disaster response or any of our projects, 100 percent of that money goes to the project. We take the money that the people in the pew give and use it to its maximum effect.”
 
You can send funds through your local church or donate online.
 
Cleaning buckets
One item, besides cash, that does help is an UMCOR cleaning bucket (http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/getconnected/supplies/flood-bucket/) , a 5-gallon plastic container filled with specific cleaning supplies. UMCOR delivers these where needed.
Cleaning buckets and other UMCOR emergency supply kits are being collected by OKVIM during the week of the Annual Conference, May 29-June 1 in Oklahoma City.
—Adapted from a story by United Methodist News Service

 


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