Send money - not stuff

Good morning all – we want to thank everyone for the amazing responses to Hurricane Harvey and the continuing care, volunteers, and rescues of our friends and families in Houston.  Nearly every Veteran group we can think of is doing amazing work there, especially out of Combined Arms, Team Rubicon, and others.  Everyone wants to do something – they feel they must do SOMETHING.  Too often this means donations.  We heard from a great Veteran group yesterday offering a really needed service but, rather than manage or send these vouchers out in an efficient way, to those that need it most, they insist on a setup to hand them over to a person – in person.  Elsewhere people are loading trailers and plastic boxes with stuff and working to transport this stuff to overwhelmed volunteers at or near shelters. 

Humanitarian workers call the crush of useless, often incomprehensible contributions "the second disaster."

In 2004, following the Indian Ocean tsunami, a beach in Indonesia was piled with used clothing.

There was no time for disaster workers to sort and clean old clothes. So the contributions just sat and rotted.

So – some won’t want to hear this.  But stop.  Stop sending your old clothes, used stuffed animals, and whatever trinkets you buy at your local grocery stores to Houston.  Stop collecting stuff no one asked for and then being mad when you can’t get priority to get to Houston and no one wants the stuff when you get there.  If there is a specific ask (new pillow in a new plastic box delivered to certain Austin shleters) – okay.  But review this story about piles of stuff that had to be destroyed because workers didn’t have time to sort, clean, assure safety to folks. 

Everyone wants to be mad at the Red Cross because of their bureaucratic ways, but they are housing over 10,000 people in shelters in Houston and are very effective at this.  I spoke with a rep yesterday that brought up the “can of beans” example:

A dollar donated to Red Cross can be used to buy three cans of beans from a merchant in the affected area, is easy to transport and use in the local shelter.
A can of beans delivered to a collection point a hundred miles away (300 in Texas) costs 35 cents.  Then is driven to a collection point.  Which is manned, even by volunteers, that need support or cost money, gas, water.  Now the can of beans is costing a dollar.  Then it is driven to the affected area – a dollar more.  Then it must be unloaded and transported to a shelter.  Who now must decide if this individual, possibly dirty, possibly unneeded, can of beans should be distributed to the vulnerable person in the shelter?  Meanwhile, their local store has cans of beans on the shelves getting old, wishing they had revenue to pay people to get the area back on their feet.  Now it’s a four dollar can of beans that may not help anyone.


There are plenty of professionally operating organizations operating in the disaster zone.  Team Rubicon, Travis Manion Foundation, Combined Arms, are all great places to donate money to.  If an organization is requesting specific donations, get new stuff, package it as requested, and deliver.  But don’t just send your old stuff – you don’t want it and it’s the least efficient way to help.  Thanks for all that everyone is doing – stay after it.


September 1, 2017 - 9:12am