Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What I Learned in Disaster Relief

Devastation in Moore, OK

In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, a group of us from Borger went to help with the clean-up near New Orleans, Louisiana.  I learned a lot on that trip.  Gayle White & I worked under a tent all day sorting clothing.  Next to us was a tent where they handed out toiletries.

Here's what I learned.  PLEASE, PLEASE do not send your cast-off clothing!  Go to Wal-Mart, Target, J.C. Penneys and buy NEW socks, underwear, boots or tennis shoes, jeans, shorts and t-shirts.  (Flip-flops are not useful in debris!)  Many of these stores will give you a handsome discount when they know you're sending things to Oklahoma for the tornado victims.  Go to Lowe's or Home Depot and buy work gloves, buckets, face masks, and work goggles and send them to Oklahoma.  Same for the discounts...just ask!  Then go to CVS and Walgreens and buy soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors and shaving cream, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream and send it.  Ask for a discount--or use coupons and get them free!  (You might even go to motel chains and ask for their toiletry samples.)  Then go to United Supermarkets, Homeland, Central Market and buy baby food, formula and water and send it.  Again...ask for a discount.  Everyone wants to help!!

What we found in that tent in Lousiana was a boatload of un-useful things!!  We spent HOURS wading through coats, prom dresses, and totally useless stuff.  IT'S HOT!!!!  No one wants your coats or prom dresses.  And wading through that kind of junk eats up the time volunteers could be doing more helpful things.  When victims came, they were mostly looking for t-shirts and socks.  Buy bulk packages in all sizes.  It will be very much appreciated!!!  And for goodness' sake, tie shoes together!!!  We worked on a 6 ft x 6 ft x 6 ft box full of shoes not paired up.  I don't have to tell you how frustrated we were!!

Think, think, and think again when you're sending things to help.  Will it really be helpful?  Will this consume volunteers' time?  How can I best package this to make it easy for everyone?  (Gallon size  bags with a variety of toiletries per family is really helpful!)  And most importantly...will it really get there?  Some organizations don't automatically send your donations to the disaster site.  It may be put in a store or kept in their disaster donation storage.  Trust who you send your things through--to get it where you want it to go when you want it to get there.

SEND NEW THINGS!  Ask yourself, "Is this something I would want?  Would I wear this?  Will this be helpful?"  Then...send those things. 

Or...send a check to:
Ryan McLaughlin
1423 SW 132nd Street
Oklahoma City, OK 74170

The McLaughlins are very involved in sharing the love of Christ to families who lost everything--including their precious children.  These families also had no insurance.  The money raised will help with funeral expenses and replacing much-needed items.  Be the arms and feet of Jesus to these families!!  (I heartily endorse the people involved in this mission--you can totally trust every dime will be used for these families!!)

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