In the case of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy, it is possible to help too much.
Relief organizations need very specific things for the areas hit hardest by the hurricane, but often receive contributions of household goods like used clothing, kitchen utensils, and perishable foods.
James McGowan, from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, understands that people’s intentions are good, but says such volunteers are just slowing down the progress of getting necessary supplies to a disaster site.
According to an Associated Press report on Yahoo! News, McGowan said, “Money is best because organizations don't have to pay to move it.” He said delivering a can of food that has been donated can cost between $15 to $25.
At the end of a recent 24-hour donation drive, Mt. Laurel’s Fire Department wound up with a 7-foot high pile of clothes that was not requested, filling one of the department’s truck bays.
According to an Associated Press report in the Miami Herald, as of Friday, the Red Cross had raised $117 million for Hurricane Sandy relief in 10 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, while the Salvation Army had collected $5 million. This marked the largest relief effort in the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
NVOAD suggests contacting its volunteers working on hurricane donations to confirm what supplies are needed before you offer any goods, according to nvoad.org. Unsolicited items can take valuable time away from agencies from providing badly needed services.
NVOAD.org lists volunteer opportunities for Hurricane Sandy in individual states here.