Practical advice for helping those who suddenly have nothing

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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.”

4 thoughts on “Practical advice for helping those who suddenly have nothing”

  1. One of the reasons I am a prepper is so I can help others in case of disaster…SBC(as the post mentioned) is a good place to put your money, they also have childcare teams, shower units and chainsaw teams…Otherwise I plan on helping face to face if needed…My homestead is open if something more permanent and catastrophic happens.

    1. Randy, my husband and I are getting our homestead ready for such a time. We have no idea how many but we imagine a lot of people will be hungry and homeless. I would be interested in any ideas you may have for taking care of a lot of families at once on your homestead. We have 12 acres with a large barn and other outbuildings. I’ve been buying tents at garage sales. In an ideal situation everyone we know would prepare to care for themselves as well as others but you can’t wake them up if they are determined to stay asleep. Still, we won’t turn them away.

      1. Tents are a good Idea…I was planning on making an out building into a bunk house…or in a pinch we can build shelters like Indian longhouses in our woods.
        I always save way more seed than I am planning to plant…especially my Indian corn, so I will have a lot of extra to plant the next spring after any disaster.
        I have picked up a couple old wood stoves (for free) that can be cooked on outside…and I have a couple huge cast iron pots left over from when my great great grand parents boiled their clothes in them…I can clean them up and cook soup or huge pots of stew…I have hung onto most of the old hand operated junk around this place. We also try to put in food perennials or trees every year… we have a few apples , lots of green gage plums…We have a flock of chickens to provide eggs and heat with an outdoor wood furnace…still not knowing the nature of a serious long term emergency prevents me from preparing for specific events…We are considering moving back out to Colorado but would prepare the same way on any land we would buy. By making it available to those in need.

  2. I agree with this article. My parents lost their home in the tornado that came through the Norman and Little Axe area on Sunday, the day before the Moore tornado. Thankfully, we were able to cover all immediate necessities among us all (their kids). I have been to the donation locations and the majority of the stuff donated was terrible. The clothes, appliances, etc. Disasters are not the time clean out the 30 year old items. We were able to get the items we needed to start the clean up process such as shovels, gloves,rakes, totes for storing salvaged items. Those things were really important and since we were all helping with the necessities that was all we needed help with right away. I certainly have learned for the future what I will donate for disasters….money. I will let the shelters or donation areas purchase what they need for the different phases of need.

    Also, my parents are preppers and my dad’s place is our bug out location. As it happens, I live in Moore and was thankfully spared the devastation that so many were not. This has made us think differently about our storage options and housing options for my parents place. We have to reevaluate some things as we move forward.

    This is a great article and I would say it holds true for this disaster and others to come.

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