Disaster Relief: How to Help

The devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria is motivating people across the country to find a way to help.

Cash donations are the most effective way to support relief efforts in any disaster situation—this is especially true for locations like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands where there regulations may be different from the U.S. However, many community groups and individuals would also like to organize product collections. Product collections can provide greatly needed assistance. However, if not planned carefully, sending truckloads of clothing, personal items, and household products can actually create more work and new problems for the communities who receive them. Based on 15 years of collecting and organizing thousands of bags of donated items, we offer practical tips for those planning collections to assure that donations will reach the families who need them and not become well-intended but untouched items.

HOW TO HELP: Tips to make a collection practical as well as compassionate 

Impacted communities do not have the manpower, storage space, or time to sift through a shipment of unmarked or poorly marked bags and boxes. To be effective, donated items need to be well organized and easily identifiable.

Before collecting anything, contact an organization in the affected area and ask them to identify their most needed items, quantities they can handle, a timeline that works for them, contact person, and best address to receive delivery. Use this information as the guide for your efforts.

>> As a member of the National Diaper Bank Network, we suggest connecting with local sister organizations. A complete list can be found here.

>> Charity Navigator is an excellent resource for identifying the most effective nonprofit organizations who are responding to Hurricane HarveyHurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. If you can’t get through, check their social media pages for updates and tips on ways you can help.

>> Identify local school districts and schools who likely need help. Research contacts at the Superintendent’s office for assistance.

>> Reach out to City Council member offices to partner for a donation drive OR for their support in identifying local organizations to partner with.

>> Keep in mind that the areas that bore the brunt of the storm receive a lot of news coverage, but surrounding communities and cities were also impacted and need support:

>> Here is a visual guide to areas impacted by Harvey

>> Here is a visual guide to areas impacted by Irma

For those who decide to proceed with a collection, here is a list of tips to help assure that donated products will reach those in need.

Questions? Contact a member of our Community Engagement Team at communityengagement@cradlestocrayons.org