Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cash is (often) king when it comes to helping disaster victims

Listening to "Want To Help Sandy Victims? Send Cash, Not Clothes" on WAMU last week brought back lots of memories from Katrina.   I remember reading an email sharing a message from Mayor Anthony Williams that basically said "give money not stuff."   Unfortunately, that message did not resonate with District residents or some District government agencies.   MPD, for example, opened up the 1D station to accept material goods.   And by goods I mean window air conditioners, clothing, diapers for babies and adults, food, water... you name it, people donated it.

Turns out, what Katrina victims brought to the armory needed were shoes, clothing, housing, medicine, and baby items such as food and strollers.

I'm not sure what happened to all the donated items housed at MPD but I can tell you this: Well meaning people did not heed the guidance from those in the know.   They were not, apparently, interested in what people actually needed.   I'm not quite sure how to address this going forward.   What I do know is that we are slow to learn the lesson shared by NPR:

Lots of people and companies are making donations to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, but food and clothing aren't always the most helpful things. Most charities would prefer money so they can target help to the greatest needs.

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