On September 8, 1900, a hurricane devastated Galveston, Texas leaving more than 5,000 people dead. The city, sustaining extensive property damage, was virtually destroyed. While survivors were still reeling from this onslaught of nature, Frederick Booth-Tucker, National Commander, ordered Salvation Army officers from across America to proceed to the disaster site to provide spiritual assistance. The Salvation Army’s first national disaster appeal for funds was generously supported by caring Americans.
From these beginnings, The Salvation Army has developed local, regional and national disaster services programs.
To learn more about The Salvation Army Disaster Response and Recovery efforts please visit disaster.salvationarmyusa.org
How to Do the Most Good After the Disaster
When disaster strikes and people lose everything they own, we want to know how we can Do the Most Good with our donations of money and materials. Should we rush to get all of our used clothing en route to victims? How can we volunteer? Is money the most effective contribution we can make?
We’ve assembled a few guidelines to help you make the most of your contributions and make sure:
Financial Contributions are the Best
Financial resources allow experienced agencies to ensure that the widest variety of needs are met. There are many varied needs in the aftermath of a disaster, from the obvious food, water, shelter and health care, to the less obvious pastoral care, pet care, family casework, and so on.
“When the public supports these voluntary organizations with financial contributions, it helps ensure a steady flow of important services to the people in need after a disaster.”
Cash contributions also avoid complicating matters of getting help to victims. Introducing too much in the way of material donations requires significantly increased logistic considerations. In the case of The Salvation Army, it would be an incredibly difficult task to gather clothing from donations centers nationwide at a central facility, clean it, pack it, before organizing transport to the site of a disaster, for storage and distribution. For this reason, FEMA advises that “used clothing is rarely a useful item to collect for disaster relief.” The Salvation Army will certainly accept donations of clothing at any time, but can only use them to fund local programs, not disaster relief.
Confirm Needs before Trying to Meet Them
As relief efforts turn to rebuilding, there are times when donations of clothing or other materials may be appropriate. However, please check with your local Salvation Army before providing materials for disaster victims. This prevents what FEMA has called “considerable waste” in terms of in-kind donations over the years. In fact, you should be wary of anyone that indicates “everything is needed” in the aftermath of a disaster.
People have compassionate hearts and want to volunteer their time in support. You should always affiliate with an established disaster relief organization like The Salvation Army. We have a nationwide process for tracking volunteer interest to best plug people in where they are needed most. There is always lots of interest following a disaster and it may mean that you need to be patient, but we can always use your help.
To find out more information about volunteering with The Salvation Army’s relief efforts or to start the process visit our National Disaster Website.