Joplin tornado survivors: Be careful how you donate to hurricane relief

8 months 3 hours 52 minutes ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 2:37:00 PM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
By: Lindsey Fafoglia, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - Some mid-Missouri residents who know what it's like to live through a horrific natural disaster have some advice for people who want to help victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“Cash is king,” said Jay St. Clair, a Joplin resident who underwent the tornado that devastated the town in 2011. 

Randy Gariss, another Joplin resident, said to send water within the first 24 hours, but after that time has passed, switch to other donations.

"Send gift cards, gift cards are wonderful," Gariss said.

He said people mean well when the donate items, but that creates more problems than it solves.

"We had to spend a lot of money sometimes just renting warehouse space to put things in that nobody could use for months," Garris said.

The Salvation Army says used toys and clothing should not be sent to affected areas; cash is the best option.

“Don't do clothing drives, that is just not helpful,” said Salvation Army Area Business Administrator Jack Holloway.

He said the flexibility of money helps those in the affected area to assess the damage and decide what is needed.

He said people should make sure they are sending cash through a reputable organization like the Salvation Army, United Way or the Red Cross.

Gariss said tarps and plastic tubs can be of use, but many items that get sent aren't of good quality.

"I know people want to be helpful, but what you would put in a garage sale, don't send to a disaster."

Gariss said it would be better to sell used items at a garage sale, then send the cash to affected areas instead. 

Holloway said people will need personal hygiene products, underwear and socks right now, but its best if it’s bought locally.

“Again, it really should not be shipped from a place like this because of the cost, the logistics, and everything else. Money is again really the best thing that can be provided,” he said.

Garris said people further than three to seven miles from a disaster should be careful sending items.

Some people want to donate their time as well as money or items.

Gariss said he encourages volunteers as long as they're partnered with an organization. He said people shouldn't just show up without a set location and a clear idea of where they are going and who they will be working with.

"A community will recover because of the kindness of people who come in and volunteer, and it will recover because of the kindness of people who give, but you got to do it wisely," Gariss said.

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