Want to help after Harvey and Irma? Give cash

Published 10:01 am Saturday, September 16, 2017


The Advocate-Messenger

When disasters strike, the best attributes of humanity are often brought out. Time and time again, Americans have proven their willingness to help those in need. After hurricanes, after tsunamis, after mass shootings, we have sent not only prayers and good thoughts to those affected, but all kinds of stuff as well.

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As CBS reported in 2016, Americans have sent mountains of clothes to countries devastated by natural disasters, bottled water cases by the thousands to Africa, even tens of thousands of teddy bears to Connecticut after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.

But CBS found that a second tragedy often happens in those times after the first tragedy strikes — all that stuff sent with the best of intentions either doesn’t help or even gets in the way and creates more problems.

Donated clothes get piled in warehouses or outside and no one has the time to sort through them. Shipping bottled water to a foreign country can be hundreds or even a thousand times more expensive than paying for water purifiers to be used in the affected areas. Food goes bad; survivors wind up with unnecessary surpluses of some items and a desperate need for others. The teddy bears sent to Newtown had to be stored in a warehouse, then shipped back off to other locations.

It’s a tragic situation for everyone involved, and it’s a situation that repeats with surprising frequency.

With millions in Florida, Louisiana and Texas now trying to recover from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we’re once again seeing the good in people, as they react out of compassion for those in need. But we should also react thoughtfully, so that our efforts to help will be as effective and useful as possible.

Experts quoted in numerous reports agree the easiest and best solution is to give donations of cash. Money may sound like a cold way to react to the human needs we see, but it’s hard to beat how efficient dollars are at fixing problems.

With your cash, support organizations can employ expert responders and put them on the ground where disasters have happened. And those responders can buy exactly what they know is needed — no sorting through boxes or trailers required. Cash has no shipping costs, which means all of your donation can go to actual relief. And there are no problems of surpluses — leftover cash does not become worthless like excess cleaning supplies or clothes do.

Of course, you should be careful who you give money to — that goes for all charitable donations, not just those dealing with disaster relief. Charity Navigator is a great website that catalogs worthwhile, trustworthy charities, and it has produced a lengthy list of charities assisting in the aftermath of Harvey (bit.ly/SupportHouston17) and Irma (bit.ly/SupportFlorida2017).

Forbes.com says five of the best charities, based on Charity Navigator’s ratings, to give to in support of Harvey recovery efforts are Americares, Direct Relief, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Convoy of Hope and Save the Children.

Americares, Direct Relief, Convoy of Hope and Save the Children are also listed on Charity Navigator’s list of organizations helping with Irma recovery.

We encourage everyone to give to the causes that are put on their hearts — and to do it with thoughtfulness so your giving can be that much more valuable.