Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Joplin, Missouri is a war zone right now.

The tornado that leveled much of the city is legend.  Homes and businesses were wiped off the face of the earth.  Over 116 lives were lost at last count.

This is no laughing matter.

As you may know, I work for a not-for-profit whose main goal is to help needy, hurting people.  The people of Joplin fall into this category in spades.  And as such, my employer has been receiving calls from the general public with offers to help.

Let me say this:  The outpouring of love and support from people of all walks of life comes through more than the average Joe will ever know during times like this.  It actually makes me weep with joy to see how much people CAN care for each other. 

But then, as always, there is the flip side of things.

During any disaster situation, not-for-profits will ALWAYS ask that the public support the efforts with monetary gifts first.  Not clothing, food, bottled water, ice, or assistance.  At the beginning of a disaster we need money.


Disasters cost a lot of money.  Not only in equipment needed for rescue and recovery, but food, shelter, and a new start for the people who have lost homes and loved ones.  There are uncovered medical costs.  There are funeral expenses.  There are those who were uninsured.  All of this takes money to provide.  And although donations of physical items are things you think we may need, you'd be wrong.

Imagine trying to get a truckload of miscellaneous items that a group of well-meaning people have collected actually transported into a disaster zone.  The roads are probably blocked, power lines are down, there is danger everywhere.  Rescue efforts are underway for those who can be rescued.  Recovery efforts are underway for those who cannot.  Emergency personnel cover the area, and survivors are taken to shelters and hotels in outlying areas.

The last thing needed at that crucial time is a collection of unrelated canned goods or clothing someone was going to sell at a garage sale.

I'm not trying to be trite or ungrateful here.  Truly.  I'm trying to let you know where you can best contribute assistance.  Believe me, I appreciate each call we get from people who want to help others!

And yet, when these well-meaning people call to tell you they're planning a clothing/canned goods/bottled water/toilet paper drive and you try to explain exactly why, although you so appreciate their help, it would be so much better if they'd just take up a collection of MONEY to send to the area so that necessities could be purchased close by and not have to be hauled in at great cost and risk of life and limb and be there WHEN they are able to be used and be WHAT IS ACTUALLY NEEDED,  the same people tend to get very huffy and think we're just trying to fleece them for dollars to spend on new electronics and the latest in office furniture and high salaries rather than having it go to said disaster in the first place.

Which I can assure you is TOTALLY NOT THE CASE.

Yes, as management I have a cell phone.  It does not even have texting as an option.  I don't have internet on my phone.  I use it for PHONE CALLS.  Imagine that.  People in my office building are sitting in chairs that are twenty years old.  The backs of the side chairs we use for our conference tables have faded from pink to gray, but they're still serviceable, so we still use them.  And I can assure you that my salary is on the low end of the totem pole.

We serve PEOPLE, not ourselves.

I took a phone call from a lady (bless her heart) who wanted to help.  She said, "I was going to have a garage sale, but I'd rather donate all the stuff to the people in Joplin instead."  I thanked her, then politely suggested she go ahead and have the garage sale and donate the MONEY to the people in Joplin instead of the stuff.

Please, listen to those who know before trying to help, and don't be offended if our version of "help" isn't your version of "help."  We appreciate what you want to do, but we've been in the business for a long time and we know our stuff.  Please help in ways that will truly count!


1 comment:

Linds said...

Brilliantly said, my friend. The experts know what is needed, and where. I imagine you will really need that massage later....