[Drags out her disaster response soapbox]
I know a lot of companies are making efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy and I do want to take the time to applaud them. It is the thought that counts and their marketing and advertising do remind us that though the storm has passed, rough seas lie ahead in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people as they begin the long and difficult task of cleaning up.
Before you donate through a for-profit organization, or purchase a product that is marketed as benefiting the victims of Hurricane Sandy, please do your research. Check the fine print to see what percentage of your donation or purchase goes to actual aid. Remember, if you buy a product and some proceeds go to hurricane victims, the other proceeds become company profit. You alone have to decide if that is okay with you.
If it’s not, let me so strongly advocate that you give to the Red Cross instead. You can donate here: http://www.redcross.org/charitable-donations. I spent 6 months interning at a local Red Cross chapter and later I responded to a natural disaster in Minneapolis, in which we opened an emergency shelter and partnered with that same local Red Cross chapter.
All I can tell you is my personal experience working for/with this amazing organization, but here is why I think your dollars are best spent with the Red Cross:
- The Red Cross has an amazing network of staff and volunteers around the country. When disaster hits one area, expertise from all over is able to be mobilized, ensuring that the greatest staff/volunteer needs are met.
- The Red Cross has been a part of these communities and knows the people who are affected. Their local staff and volunteers are members of the affected communities. They go to church with some of the victims, their kids go to school together, they belong in groups and clubs together. They absolutely, without a doubt, know more about the culture and needs of the affected communities than corporations.
- You can give in a million ways. Want to keep your dollars local? Great! You can donate to your local chapter and support local programs or relief when a disaster hits locally. Want to give where the need is greatest (like the East Coast today, but maybe the Midwest after a snowstorm this winter or Northern Africa after disease outbreak)? Great! You can give to where the need is greatest. Feeling a bit strapped for cash? That’s okay. You can give blood. Thousands of blood drives on the East Coast have been canceled, but their need for blood has not.
In case you are curious, I found a breakdown from the Minnesota Chapter (redcrossmn.org) on what your donations can provide:
- $25: Provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner to a shelter resident
- $30: Five blankets for a family following a disaster
- $50:Food and shelter for one person for 24 hours
- $100: A crib for an infant in a shelter
- $150: Covers the cost of a clean up kit, comfort supplies, and bulk package for a family of 4
- $250: Deploys bulk distribution workers to drive a t box truck full of disaster supplies (the stuff has got to get there somehow)
- $575:Supports 1 emergency response vehicle and 2 Red Cross workers for 1 day
- $1000: Covers the cost to staff a shelter with 10 disaster workers
- $2000: Provides 1 hot meal to 200 disaster victims
- $5000: Provides food and shelter to 100 disaster victims for a day
My experience working in an emergency shelter immediately after a disaster absolutely changed my life. I have never seen people in my community both need so badly and help so much. Unfortunately, the things people really need are not sexy enough for a corporate ad spot during your favorite sitcom. People need underwear. They need refills for prescription meds. They need feminine hygiene products. They need brooms and sponges to start cleaning up when they go home. They need a hot meal. They need a licensed professional to help them cope with the stress and worry and anxiety and fear. They need a little direction and someone to say, “I get that this sucks and I will help you and think about you and pray for you because I believe you deserve to come out of this a survivor and a winner, not a victim.”
Friends on the East Coast, I get that this sucks and I will do what I can from Minneapolis to help you. I will think about you and I will pray for you. I believe you deserve to come out of this a survivor and a winner. You are not a victim, you are a champion. So I gave to the Red Cross today, for you.
[Steps off her soapbox ALL wound up and ready to save the world]