10 Worst Things to Donate After a Disaster

Donations can quickly fill warehouses or end up in a landfill with the rest of the disaster debris. PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images

We are absolutely right to assume that supplies like extra clothes, blankets and nonperishable food are critical following a natural disaster.

But we are wrong to think that the best way to get those goods to the victims of a disaster is by donating them ourselves. Here is a list of the top 10 things that you should not donate.

10 – Used Clothing
Used clothing is “rarely a useful item” to collect and donate to disaster relief efforts. Boxes of mixed clothing need to be sorted by size and type, cleaned in some cases, repackaged and deployed to those who need it most. If relief agencies and local officials don’t have the volunteer resources to wade through all of the donations, the clothing will quickly fill warehouses or end up in the landfill with the rest of the disaster debris. A better idea is to sell the used clothes at a yard sale and donate the funds to a disaster relief agency.

9 – Shoes
The best donation is cash. Relief organizations can use your money to buy bulk deliveries of sorted and sized shoes directly to the areas that need it most.

8 – Blankets
60 percent of the donations to a disaster site are not needed.

7 – Teddy Bears
Newtown, Connecticut received 67,000 teddy bears after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. They had to find a warehouse to hold all the teddy bears. So in the wake of tragedy they had a bunch of stuff to deal with. What if the money for 67,000 teddy bears funded grief counselors or helped with funeral costs?

6 – Medicine
Disaster relief agencies and first responder units are usually well-stocked with the provisions to manage a medical crisis. When there is a need, they will work directly with drug companies and medical suppliers get the right supplies to the right place. After a 1988 earthquake in Armenia, the country received 5,000 tons of drugs and medical supplies worth $55 million. It took a staff of 50 people six months just to catalogue the donations, most of which were only labeled with brand names; less than half were useful for emergency medical needs.

5 – Pet Supplies
Shipping heavy boxes of supplies to a disaster area is not an efficient use of money and resources. Donate to the American Humane Association or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which will ensure that animals receive the food, shelter and medical care that they need.

4 – Mixed Items
Think of the volunteer man power and hours required to open and empty each of these boxes, identify the contents, sort the usable from the unusable, repack the good stuff, transport it to the right location and dispose of the junk. refrain from shipping mixed boxes of relief supplies to disaster areas.

3 – Canned Food and Bottled Water
Food requires much closer inspection that other donations, because cans could be expired or damaged, at which point they become a health risk to the survivors. Then the food needs to be organized by type, repackaged and distributed to the people who need it the most. Relief organizations can often purchase the food close to the disaster zone, which helps to revive the local economy of the hard-hit nation.

2 – Your Unsolicited Help
Well-meaning individuals who simply show up to help without prior contact or coordination with disaster management personnel in Missouri can further complicate or even hinder response and recovery operations already underway. If you want to donate your time and energy to disaster recovery — a noble and necessary effort — the best thing to do is affiliate with a national organization dedicated to disaster response.

1 – Money to the Wrong People
Beware of people who set up phony charitable organizations to scam generous donors. pay close attention to the name of the organization soliciting donations. Scammers often use subtle misspellings of recognized international organizations to fool unsuspecting donors.

What You Can Do

While donating money may not feel like you’re doing something, in disasters, it is the very best thing that you can do. Go to the National Donations Management Network, a searchable online database of nonprofit organizations that have posted specific and urgent needs for disaster supplies.

 

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