You have no doubt seen the absolute devestation Katrina left in her wake, and like me you want to do something, so here is advise directly from the American Red Cross web site telling you the best way to help. More importantly it tells how not to help. Please read the entire thing, and then do what you can.
About Donating Goods to the Red Cross for Areas Impacted by Hurricane KatrinaWritten by Leigh-Anne Dennison , Redcross.org Staff
Wednesday, August 31, 2005 — When a disaster of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina strikes and the news broadcasts images of broken, battered and destroyed homes, it is natural for the public to be eager to help their neighbors – whether they’re across town or across the country. Often, seeing that they have lost everything, people are eager to donate food, clothing or other goods to meet the needs of storm victims and help the affected families begin to replace what they have lost.
Anheuser-Busch donated more than six million cans of
water to the American Red Cross and other relief agencies
to aid victims and relief workers during the 2004 Atlantic
hurricanes. U.S. Navy personnel provided invaluable
assistance to the Hurricane Ivan relief operation last
year by loading critically needed water donated by
Anheuser-Busch onto Red Cross ERVs at the Pensacola
Civic Center distribution site, Fla., September 2004.
(Photo Credit: Dave Murray/American Red Cross/File)
"While that generous spirit is truly appreciated, the American Red Cross cannot accept this type of donation for the victims it is serving," said Amanda Lepof, an American Red Cross In-Kind Officer.
Today, the Red Cross is operating more than 250 shelters across seven states, providing a safe haven for nearly 42,000 evacuees – many who have been left homeless by Katrina. The first priority is meeting the urgent, critical needs of those people, which include providing emergency shelter, food and water.
"In-kind donations are best when they come from companies that can provide new items in a quantity that meets the mass care needs of victims – for example, Anheuser-Busch is again donating canned water for hurricane victims and response workers," said Lepof. "Unsolicited, spontaneous donations of goods and services from individuals and community groups, although well intentioned, have hidden costs and pose a number of complications for initial relief efforts."
For these reasons, the Red Cross is unable to accept any large collections of items, such as used clothing, hygiene items, furniture, toys, blankets, and canned goods. Nor is it able to accept small, individual donations of these items.
Why does the Red Cross discourage donations of collected goods and individual items for disaster relief?
Collections of items require valuable and scarce resources such as time, money, and personnel to sort, clean, and distribute them, which come at the expense of the emergency activities relief workers are attempting to perform. The Red Cross has neither the resources, nor the logistical set-up, to properly handle these types of donations, and therefore cannot accept them.
In addition, because the organization has no way of knowing what spontaneous individual donations or unsolicited collections of items will consist of, and therefore cannot ensure there will be enough of a particular item to distribute it equitably, or if the donated products will even be appropriate for the relief effort.
Shipping donated goods is also costly and particularly difficult in the aftermath of a disaster, as roads are often damaged or impassable, and easily clogged with shipments of non-priority items. The Red Cross makes every attempt to procure items locally to save money by minimizing transportation and storage costs.
“We don’t want to discourage people who want to help,” said Lepof. “But, making a financial gift to support the relief operations really is the best way for people to help after a disaster like this.”
Monetary financial contributions enable the Red Cross to support the greatest needs in the most efficient manner. Cash can be used to purchase items in adjacent, staging areas and eliminate the added costs involved in transporting goods.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of this disaster and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.