September 1, 2005

UPDATED: What To Do [Besides Take 'Katrina' Off The Name List?]

It's a question I've been asking myself the last couple of days, especially as I decide whether to post about this or that toy or deluxe nursery furniture.

Cooper at Been There and some other bloggers are getting busy, meanwhile, and trying to coordinate grass roots deliveries of necessities for families who've evacuated with barely the shirts on their backs.

Personally, I'm conflicted about such nobly intentioned efforts; I found with my own experience of rushing a shoppingbagful of Neosporin to the West Side Highway on Sept. 13th that many such ad hoc acts of altruism amount to a cry lost in the wind. Sending diapers and onesies to a church in Louisiana that may or may not have mail service and may or may not still need them if they arrive may be a sub-optimal response to the crisis, but it may still be an entirely necessary one from your point of view.

The adventurous commenter on Cooper's site, though, the one organizing a pickup truck convoy across LA/MS/AL to deliver emergency supplies, however, reminds me of the well-meaning people we watched that 9/13 who cheered and handed Dasani water [a product of the Coca Cola Company, btw] into the windows of trucks going to the WTC site; their can-do spirit inadvertently paralyzed traffic, turning the main access road for downtown Manhattan into an emergency vehicle parking lot.

Still, if you're not comfortable with just looking out the window of your plane and saying, "gee, that must be difficult," and then going home, go read up on Cooper & Co's plans. And check out Hurricanehousing.org, which was just set up by Moveon.org to match up housing needs and housing offers for people displaced by the disaster.

A Clearinghouse for Toys and Supplies for Families Hit Hardest by Katrina [beenthere.typepad.com]

[UPDATE: Emily and Cooper report they've been inundated by requests from people after being mentioned on CNN and MoveOn's sites. And she clarifies that most of the requests are for people to send things directly to individuals who are housing evacuees, not to some random church. [but to some random person, but still, go check it out.]

9 Comments

Thanks for the trackback -- I remember so clearly all the troubles that ensued in NYC after 9/11 and hope that our small effort might do something to get around the logjam.

Emily

Great!a toy drive! Just what a kid who saw her mother float out to sea needs: Bratz(tm).

[about as funny as a Walmartful of looters, JD. -ed.]

Joe, did you bother to look at the site? Most people are offering clothes or housing.

Sniping at people trying to be generous helps no one.

If nothing else, make a donation to Red Cross.

Relevant to recent nursery furniture chatter:

My IKEA crib was about $120. I spent another $40 on paint. And $40 or so on other materials to get our nursery ready. That's $200. Today, I donated $200 to Red Cross. That's what I can do.

If you're able to rock a Netto Crib ($1,585) and MoxBox dresser ($3,050) in your baby's nursery, think about what you can do.

I don't mean to criticize anyone's well intentioned efforts to help, but it seems to me that money is almost always the most useful thing you can give.

The reports trickling out of the area are really shocking. It's deeply disturbing to see how thin the line between civilization and anarchy really is.

My husband and I were looking for some way we could help with a monetary donation (after the 9/11 snafu, the Red Cross is not high on our list). We researched and found a charity called Convoy of Hope (www.convoyofhope.org). They're highly rated on Charity Navigator (who rates the effectiveness of charities and how they spend their money). AND, more importantly they are already in Mississippi and Louisiana, distributing food, water, ice and other neccesities. They were actually smart enough to load up their trucks and start heading towards the Gulf Coast BEFORE Katrina hit so they would be there as soon as people needed them . . . if only our Gov't was as well equipped with the same foresight.

By the end of next week there could be 75,000 refugees in Houston. There are tremendous needs for most of these poeople considering most of them were too old, or infirmed to leave. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is taking cash donations and goods, especially for children. They have (3) local stores in Houston (2020 Washington for those of you that live in the loop)and they are also accepting donations on line.

IMO, monetary donations are the best way to go. That way the people who [supposedly] know what they're doing (Red Cross, FEMA, etc.) can distribute it accordingly.

Also, check with your employers to see if they will match your donations. $25 is great, but $50 is better!

Just my $.02.

[I generally agree, so that makes $0.04. -ed.]

Thanks for that Convoy of Hope link.

Another thing I would add is that the biggest need, at least once they get the place stabilized and cleaned up, is going to be rebuilding the housing stock and infrastructure. The initial basic relief efforts (food, water, temporary shelter) are probably already close to being adequately funded. I don't know how much of the rebuilding is covered by the Federal government (and therefore our taxes), but organizations like Habitat for Humanity will definitely be able to use all the money they get. The uninsured damage is probably, what, $25 billion+?

Also, and I haven't seen it for this disaster yet, but American Express allowed you to convert reward points into cash donations for the tsunami. That's a good way to give something beyond what you might be able to afford otherwise. I certainly don't need any more free airplane tickets or toasters.

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