A variety of donations fill a local church in Bayhead, New Jersey, after Superstorm Sandy struck last year.
By Susan Kim*
October 8, 2013—One artistic woman spent her time crafting crosses and mirrors from the shards of broken dishes found in a hurricane's path. Another carefully restored an old stained glass window that was damaged during a tornado.
Sometimes the best donations are the ones that preserve a precious memory.
Across the board, disaster responders still say, by far, the best donation is cash. But there are moments when another type of thoughtful offer happens to be perfectly timed and delivered.
“I just remembered a person who helped restore damaged photos, and made a wonderful scrapbook of memories and new beginnings,” said Catherine Earl, US Disaster Response executive for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). “It was so touching.”
Practically speaking, if you're going to give “stuff,” and not cash, it's best to give UMCOR Relief-Supply Kits. Assembling or purchasing kits helps keep UMCOR's Relief-Supply Network ready to deliver vital goods into the hands of disaster survivors.
You can also give the gift of prayer, and that in abundance. In fact, responders say they would rather have 10,000 prayers than 10,000 of anything else.
The gift of your volunteer time is also priceless in the wake of a disaster, added Richard Norman, disaster response coordinator for the Oklahoma United Methodist Annual Conference and chairperson for Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (OK VOAD). “I have seen the continued unselfish, servant-hearted volunteers continue to serve the families in need. They will continue to be one of the greatest gifts to our ministry and the survivor families.”
Before you volunteer—and preferably before disaster strikes—responders urge you to enroll in training so that you are equipped for your role in assisting survivors.
In training, volunteers are taught that, sometimes, simply their presence will help an isolated disaster survivor reconnect to the rest of the world. Volunteers and neighbors can help someone find a temporary sanctuary, even in the psychological or spiritual sense of the word.
Hours after Hurricane Sandy struck, some family-owned businesses that were able to operate off of generators opened their doors to let people charge their cell phones. Around the same time, the Hamilton United Methodist Church in Neptune, New Jersey, put out a simple sign that read: “Come In and Get Warm.” People flocked to the church not just for meals and heat but to reconnect with their neighbors.
Creative donations also come from churches and businesspeople alike who are inspired to reach out. “I have also seen donated office space and donated cell phones and laptops for recovery workers and survivors alike,” said Earl.
Every so often, businesses kick in a donation that perfectly matches a need. Christy Smith, UMCOR consultant is always pleased to see billboard companies donate used billboards for use as temporary roof tarps. “They make excellent tarps and the billboard companies need to get rid of them. It's a marriage made in heaven,” she said.
Go back in the story: see the bold words? Disaster responders cite those as the top five best donations: cash, UMCOR relief-supply kits, prayers, training, and sanctuary.
Please donate creatively, generously, and wisely. Give to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.