Lessons from Sandy: The Harvey donations that will help the most
FARMINGDALE — Though many people will feel the urge to send clothing, food and water to Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas, the head of a New Jersey charity said based on his experience during Sandy, that's all best avoided.
Instead, said Timothy C. Hearne, president and CEO of the United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, a monetary donation is the best way to help.
"I've seen studies where in disasters up to 75 percent of that stuff goes to waste because it's just not what the local people need. Our experience is that people donate what they think people need but the fact is it's not what they need," Hearne told New Jersey 101.5.
The donated items create additional storage and care costs, and "those resources are best used in the recovery," Hearne said.
He said during Sandy, people donated bowling balls and stuffed ponies when victims really need cleaning supplies, which a group like the Red Cross can buy in bulk. The United Way wound up giving it to other agencies.
"Warehouses full of clothing just get sold," Hearne said. "It's well-intentioned but not really what victims need at the time."
Carolyn Gorski of Belford, who lost her home during Sandy, said the most immediate need people had after the storm in 2012 was clothing. She went to a church for immediate replacements.
"We lost all our clothing. Beds, blankets, everything. There was people in there shopping like it was the mall," Gorski said.
Yet later, there was so much clothing that the township sold it all at a price per pound.
"They took that and gave $100 gift cards to everyone, Gorski said.
"Cash lets victims of the national disaster buy what they need, when they need it. If you're donating to a major charity they are buying stuff in large quantities from national firms at discounts," Hearne said, adding that cash also helps support the local economy by spending the donated cash in market.
He doesn't buy the argument from some people that charities waste money and spend more on administrative costs than helping storm victims.
"They have good people, trained people, making decisions with the best intentions to help the victims of this disaster and all the disasters." Hearne said.
The governor's office, working with NJ Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NJVOAD) and the Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM), has posted a list of charities and faith-based organizations involved with relief work in Texas. It does not endorse any one group or oversee the disbursement of donated funds.
The groups listed are:
• United Methodist Committee on Relief
• Advent Community Services
• National Council of the Society St. Vincent de Paul’s Disaster Services Corporation
• Operation BBQ Relief
• Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster members
• World Cares Center
• Team Rubicon
• Save the Children
• Heart 911
• Catholic Charities USA
• Evangelical Lutheran Church
• American Red Cross
• Episcopal Relief and Development
• Presbyteries Disaster Assistance
• The Salvation Army
"Many of the organizations I am familiar with from Sandy and they did a tremendous job," Hearne said.
Hearne said the United Way of Greater Houston is also also accepting donations to its Flood Relief Fund to help "the most vulnerable population" of the area.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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