Years ago, I wrote this article after helping in disaster relief after hurricane Katrina. I'm reposting it with the fires in Fritch in mind (which have destroyed over 100 homes and burned over 2500 acres!). Please read it and I'll post a few new comments at the bottom.
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. Penney and buy NEW socks, underwear, boots or tennis shoes, jeans, shorts and t-shirts--in ANY size--but especially adult sizes. (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 Fritch for the fire victims. Go to Ace, Lowe's or Home Depot and buy work gloves, buckets, face masks, and work goggles and send them to Fritch. Same for the discounts...just ask! Then go to CVS and Walgreens and buy soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine products, 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 and Affiliated and buy baby food, formula and individually packaged snacks 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 using to do more helpful things. When victims came to our clothing tent, they were mostly looking for t-shirts, underwear, 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.
*Here's an organization you can trust which will be helping fire victims (I am the former director of this Christian benevolence agency). Instead of sending the clothing, toiletries, water and food to Fritch, you can take it all to Living Water in Borger who will distribute it to those victims only 15 miles away. You can know they will gladly be helping the victims of the fire. They serve all of Hutchinson County and the area knows this agency well--and its reputation for helping--and will automatically be sending people to them for help. They will accept your SUMMER gently-used clothing Monday-Thursday from 9-3. The best thing you can do is bring them clean and folded and put in kitchen-size trash bags according to men, women or children and clearly marked. Remember...men and women working in charred remains will be looking for jeans, boots, tennis shoes, socks, and work gloves--new or gently used. If you have any of those things, please deliver them to Living Water!! YOU CAN TRUST THIS AGENCY!! Over 100 families have lost EVERYTHING! Not only will Living Water help the victims, they will be sharing the love of Jesus with them. Donate your TIME to Living Water---they're going to need extra hands to sort the clothing which comes in. LIVING WATER HAS NO MORE ROOM FOR CLOTHING AT THIS TIME! The best thing to do is donate money.
Living Water Benevolence Ministry, Inc.
103 W. 4th St.
Borger, TX 79007
Director: Selena McClellan
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team said they are going to need people to help clean out in the next couple of weeks and are willing to train on-site!
I'm challenging everyone in our area to stay tuned. I'm sure we're going to hear in the days ahead of specific needs in regard to furniture and household goods people will be needing as they find a new place to live. Honestly? I've never seen more storage buildings as I have in the past few years. If all of us just cleared out our storage buildings, we'd be able to set up all 100 homes with nice, used furniture!! Let's be the hands and feet of Jesus!
If you know someone who lost everything and you have photos of them you can share, consider making them copies or creating a photo book for them. A gift of love.
Pray, pray, and pray some more. People are in shock. Their loss is great!