One of my Facebook readers sent this information to me, and I thought it had some valuable guidelines when we want to help others who have lost so much during an event like the Moore, OK, tornadoes but aren’t sure exactly what to do.
“I worked in a shelter for several days after the May 3rd, 1999 tornado – here’s my advice, for what it is worth:
We had tons of items donated – clothing, small household appliances, toys, dishes, pots, pans, etc. Most of it used. Aside from immediate, emergency needs for those that lost everything, we couldn’t pass it on to evacuees until it had been washed, sterilized, or otherwise cleaned.
Honestly, a lot of it was junk. Some of it was donated to thrift stores or other charities and a lot of it was trashed after the shelter cleared the next week. This is one reason why the charities always ask for money instead of donations.
The first night, the shelter needed basics: blankets/sleeping bags, pillows, toiletry items (soap, shampoo, toothbrush/paste, etc.), bottled water, light snacks (of all kinds), and we used our personal first-aid kit to handle minor cuts/abrasions (major injuries were transported to the hospital but there were tons of smaller injuries and the supplies on hand did not include band-aids, gauze, medical tape, anti-biotic creams, rubbing alcohol, etc.).
I would recommend against over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, etc., unless they are provided and administered by a registered nurse or other trained medical provider (some people have allergies or medical conditions that would contra-indicate OTCs).
Toys for traumatized kids, pajamas, socks/booties (adults and kids), and other items were nice. Table or card games also went a long way to pass the time.
If donated, all of these items should be new and in the box/sealed packages.
The next day, community members donated ground coffee and condiments (we had coffee pots), quick-eat breakfast foods, paper cups, plates, and plastic ware. Hot lunch was provided by a local restaurant. As the day passed, a kitchen was set up, hot food provided, and the evacuees slowly moved out to family, friends, hotels, and other places. The shelters in place today may have different needs…
Without going into the background of donations and major non-profit organizations, I would recommend that you donate to your church (i.e., the Southern Baptist Convention operates a mobile kitchen for events like this), the Salvation Army, or a local charity that you know and trust to use the funds for the victims and not for other uses. You can also find organizations who are not disaster-response groups but are helping out (like the University of Oklahoma that is donating rooms for those who lost their homes) and coordinate a type of donation with them. This allows you to see your donation go directly to work for the victims!
Hope this helps.”
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