- Iran touts new laser that bolsters missile accuracy
- Satanists petition for statue at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Deadly N.Y. train derailment leads to Senate call for cameras at tracks
- WWII vet, 90, en route to Pearl Harbor event booted from flight
- SWAT team at Phoenix hospital as armed man clears emergency room
- Kim Jong-un’s uncle dragged from political meeting, booted from party
- Big storm dumps snow on East Coast, travel dicey
- Thai prime minister dissolves Parliament, calls elections
- Hagel to meet with Pakistan’s prime minister
- Kiev: Riot police deployed near protest sites
‘Disaster after the disaster’: Unwanted donations
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Superstorm Sandy has brought out generosity far and wide in the biggest U.S. relief effort for the American Red Cross and other groups since Hurricane Katrina swamped the Gulf Coast in 2005.
And while the response is heartwarming, some of that is also helping create a “second disaster after the disaster,” in the words of one expert.
It’s a common quandary after natural disasters displace lots of people and destroy homes and possessions. Relief groups need very specific things, along with cash and organization. Instead, they get vases and vacuum cleaners, or interference from well-intentioned volunteers who think they’re helping but are just hindering efforts.
“It’s really been a lot of stuff really affecting the disaster site,” said James McGowan, the associate director of partnerships at the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, who made the “second disaster” analogy. “They’re just showing up and they’re not coordinated with the agencies.”
Ad hoc relief groups need to make sure they are taking in only items that are requested and can be distributed. Money is the best because organizations don’t have to pay to move it and can tailor spending to changing needs, McGowan said. Transporting and distributing a simple donated can of food can be $15 to $25.
People who insist on giving physical goods should make sure they’re working through groups that are coordinating with organizations on the ground, McGowan said. Established groups are taking aid to areas that need it.
“Some of our agencies are really focused on those areas that say they’re not getting any help,” he said. “We are out there.”
The Fire Department in Mount Laurel is proud of what it organized for people just an hour away who were slammed by the storm at the end of October, sending off 11 trucks of donated supplies Friday morning.
The confounding part was figuring out what to do with things not requested: the vacuums and vases, pots and pans, opened cases of bottled water, and used clothing.
By the time the department’s 24-hour donation drive was done, a pile of clothes 7 feet high filled up a bay usually used to park a truck at department headquarters.
The pots and pans and clothing are being sent to the Salvation Army. Nonperishable food, bottled water, diapers, baby wipes and cleaning supplies are going to shelters that requested them; other supplies are going to the Toms River Fire Department to aid firefighters and their families whose homes were damaged by Sandy’s storm surge.
Several similar efforts have happened or are in the works elsewhere. Groups are planning to move goods from Pennsylvania to Long Island and from Delaware to New Jersey.
Wayne Piaggi, a trucker from Adams, Mass., who drives between western Massachusetts and New Jersey most days, decided he wanted to help. He was going to gather all kinds of supplies until he spoke with officials at shelters and the Red Cross.
“They have a lot of everything; they need food. They don’t have anything to eat,” he said. “We put the word out that we need food right away.”
By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- EDITORIAL: Health care hardball
- 'Dude, I'm dreading that I will have to go': Czech prime minister on Mandela funeral
- South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower American flag for Nelson Mandela
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- FENNO: Mike Shanahan's empty words no salve to free-falling Redskins
- POWELL: The Fed's scandalous monetary policy
- As the unemployed wait, lawmakers debate about extended benefits
- Sen. Rand Paul: Supreme Court needs to re-examine Fourth Amendment
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Understanding economic events with a free market explanation
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up by Lisa King Dolloff and friends.
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
Let it snow
White House pets gone wild!