Disaster Donations

August 28, 2017

The rain is still falling from Hurricane Harvey and the worst is not over for many, many communities. People are rightly asking how they can help. Here’s a suggestion: hold a garage/yard sale this Labor Day Weekend and send the money you raise to a response organization of your choice. (Disciples Volunteering partners with Week of Compassion.)

This advice grows out of a continual plea for how not to help: please do not gather and send unsolicited donations to impacted communities. Such (usually) well meaning actions actually create more problems for the “beneficiaries” of such unsought generosity. If you do send items, only send things that are specifically requested by an agency that has a presence in an impacted community AND is receiving those donations directly. If someone tells you that the northeast chapter of southwest Tennessee’s “helping hands for the love of God, inc.” said it’s okay to send old clothes to First Independent Unitarian Baptist in the center of a flood zone – DON’T DO IT!

The unfortunate reality is that too many people use disaster relief as an excuse to clean out their garage and the backs of their closets. I get the impulse: it’s stuff I’m no longer using, and these people just lost everything; surely someone would be grateful to have the partial set of golf clubs I haven’t used in 20 years. Let me tell you, they won’t. However, to my earlier suggestion, cleaning out your garage, your closets, your basement, your storage unit, or whatever can be done as an act to support Harvey survivors. Get all that stuff together and have a giant yard/garage sale. Get your friends, family, and neighbors in on it, too. Then take all that money you make from the sale and send it to a response organization such as Week of Compassion.

Instead of convoys of trucks hauling who-knows-what into a disaster-zone (this happens with every major disaster), imagine instead convoys of cash pouring in from Labor Day / Weekend garage sales all over the country. Such an out-pouring of compassion from a Labor (Day) of Love would truly make a difference for storm survivors.