Want to help? The Catholic Charities staff put together these tips to consider for the best ways to help.
- Cash is King! Financial donations are always the best choice. While clicking a “donate now” button doesn’t give a sense of action, the funds support the operations on the ground. Also, with cash donations, agencies can buy locally, infusing money into the local economy, and take advantage of bulk pricing on some relief supplies.
- Think long-term. A large percentage of donations pour in while the disaster is front-page news. Consider holding off until the rebuilding phase starts. Do your research and find out what organizations are in the game for the long haul and involved in the rebuilding phase—helping people find jobs, new housing or providing mental health counseling.
- Collect relief supplies with caution.—People often want to organize a collection drive after any disaster. And sometimes, those items are helpful, but there are a few things you should consider. Before collecting relief supplies, find out if there is an agency that can accept them. Remember, the disaster landscape changes quickly, so act quickly. If an agency needs water today, it may not necessarily need water tomorrow. Social media sites like Facebook have up-to-date postings of needed supplies. Factor in shipping costs if you’re not planning on delivering your donations yourself.
- If you want to send clothing, new clothing is always the best choice (especially jeans, t-shirts, shoes, and underwear). Make sure there is an agency to accept them in the affected area. Yes, people who have lost everything will be grateful for whatever help they can get, but a brand new pair of socks would be top on most people’s list.
- Better yet, purchase household goods online and have them shipped directly to an organization.
Gift cards are a great way agencies can quickly get assistance to survivors. Gas, groceries, baby supplies are items families need following any emergency.
- Host a shower, just like you would for a new bride. Ask your friends to donate everything a family would need to set up housekeeping—pots, pans, linens, even furniture. Make sure you know how the items will get to the affected area before sending out the invitations though. Don’t expect a local agency to foot the shipping bill to send your items across the country.
- Donate your bank of frequent flyer miles or loyalty reward points to a disaster responder. Don’t let your hard-earned points expire. Help out an agency with airfare, hotel rooms or even meals. Each reward program’s donation policy varies, so check online. It’s a win/win for everyone.
- Volunteers drive disaster recovery.—The work after any disaster is overwhelming, and volunteer offers come in from every part of the world. Here are some things to remember: If you’re thinking of traveling to another part of the country to help out, make a connection on the ground before you pack your bags. Never show up unannounced and without a game plan. Make sure your help is needed, and prepare to be “self-sufficient.” In any disaster environment, hotels are booked for miles, restaurants packed, and rental cars in short supply. Nonprofit staff will be focused on relief and recovery, not on where you’re going to spend the night. Register and train before disaster strikes. Get on a deployment list, and wait for the phone to ring.
- Spread the word through social media. The national media doesn’t stick around long after search and rescue is finished. Update your friends on the crisis situation, solicit donations, and keep the buzz going. Successes come from connecting needs with people and companies that can help. You never know what might happen if the right person reads your tweet about an organization needing diapers or a Facebook post you share about a family who lost everything.
For more information about Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, visit www.CatholicCharitiesBR.org or call 225-336-8700.