Donating during disasters: give cash, not goods

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – If there’s one thing that natural disasters prove, it’s the generosity of Americans who have a great desire to help in times of need.

But Red Cross volunteers are now swamped with donations and officials say there’s a smarter way to give.

To put it simply, if you want to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, donate money not clothes, blankets, or food.

While it’s the thought that counts, it actually creates more work for volunteers who are on the ground facilitating disaster relief efforts.

“There is kind of a term in the disaster world where cash is king,” Chad Veeser said. He’s the disaster resiliency coordinator for the Michigan Community Service Commission.

It’s the state’s lead agency when it comes to supporting volunteerism and donations during times of disasters.

Veeser said there are three key reasons why opening your wallet is better than opening your closet to help those impacted by disasters: transporting cash is easy, it allows for a very specific response, and helps a community recover by funding the reconstruction of homes and the workers who do it.

Right now, volunteers in Texas are becoming overwhelmed with in-kind donations that some say can actually cause more harm than good.

“I understand the personal connection to giving something that’s yours,” Veeser said. “The last thing a person recovering from a disaster needs or wants is to not only sort through their lives, but then sort through everything else that somebody sends them whether they ask for it or not.”

It’s something that Kelly King, executive director for the mid-Michigan Red Cross said can interfere with disaster response efforts.

“With the resources that it takes to sort those items and in the situation with the flooding with Harvey just knowing the safe areas to be able to get close enough to distribute those,” King said.

And that’s why she said contributing cash is key.

“That helps us get food supplies, cots, blankets, all of our programs and services,” she said. “On average, 91 cents of every dollar donated to the Red Cross, and that would be dedicated to the Hurricane Harvey fund, would go to help with those services.”

According to the Red Cross, your donations have helped serve more than 807,000 meals and snacks, mobilized shelter supplies to more than 85,000 people, and provided health and mental health contacts for roughly 26,000 evacuees.

While a massive Hurricane Harvey relief effort continues, the American Red Cross is preparing for Hurricane Irma as it nears the United States.

It’s been characterized as a Category 5 storm, which winds as high as 180 miles per hour. It’s effects are predicted to hit the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It could also impact Florida later in the week.

The Red Cross says “volunteers and relief supplies are being mobilized and dozens of facilities have been pre-identified as potential evacuation shelters in case they are needed.”

To donate, click here.

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