Lend A Hand: Here’s How To REALLY Help During A Disaster

We’ve said it time and again: when the worst happens, that’s when you’ll see the best in people. And that sentiment is certainly true now, as fires rage around the state. One of the hardest hit regions of course: Napa and Sonoma counties. And while donating to an international aid agency like Red Cross is fine, some people want to help in a more direct way. And for them, there is this.

This morning we spotted this posted on our Facebook feed. It’s from Julie Seewald Boernhoft, and she is the marketing director with WEAVE (Women Escaping A Violent Environment). So, she knows a thing or two about what donations work, what don’t, and what you shouldn’t even bother with. Take a look, it will help you help others in a more effective way.

With so many disasters, I know we are compelled to help. I want to put a few things out there based on my experience from working in the nonprofit sector for awhile now.

1. Give as local as possible. I’ve become a big advocate for giving through local community foundations during disasters. They know who the players are. They know who is doing the tough work 365 days a year. They know who shows up and follows through. 
2. Give cash. Cash means flexibility. It means the ability to meet the immediate needs quickly.
3. About Wish Lists. If a local nonprofit (or a family you know personally) has posted one with needed items as an option, by all means use it. Order what is on the list. That agency knows what their needs are better than you or I. 
4. Donation Drives for “stuff and things” – These should be led by those in the trenches at the local level who know what is needed. Give ONLY what is asked for. Do NOT start a clothing drive for people in another county/state unless you are asked to by someone in the trenches. Clothing donations take huge amounts of space and must be sorted to determine what fits a local need (i.e. don’t send sweaters to Texas and Florida – they don’t need them now or ever). 
5. Final thought about “stuff and things” – If you wouldn’t wear it any longer, don’t send it somewhere else. If it’s underwear and they are not new and in packages, do NOT send ever. I’m serious. It’s demeaning. It’s unsanitary. No one is distributing your used underwear even if you washed them first. People have lost everything and they at least deserve the dignity of a new pair of underwear to get through the day.

We all want to help when we see others hurt. Helping responsibly means we are part of the solution rather than contributing to a new problem.

Excellent advice from someone who knows. Now, let’s all pitch in and help the folks who need it back on their feet.

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