A well-meaning pastor was on the news last week. He had a truck parked outside a local grocery store and was accepting donations of bottled water and canned food. He was taking the supplies to Alabama for tornado victims. He said he wouldn’t get to the devastated towns but knew of a place about three miles away. On the surface, this seems like a wonderful and generous thing to do. I wish they had given it a little more thought.
If you saw the truck and were moved to contribute, you probably would have gone inside the store and paid retail price for a case of water. Let’s suppose you took that same $5 or $10 and gave it to the American Red Cross or The Salvation Army instead. What would they do with it? For starters, they could buy at least twice as much water at wholesale prices. Or they could let their trained staff decide what to buy with it. On top of that, they have the know-how to get relief supplies exactly where they are needed most, not three miles away.
The thoughtful people who are helping and contributing should not be discouraged. I understand that it makes us feel better to put a case of water on a truck than to write a check or to text “REDCROSS” to 90999. For those who want to donate in-kind, it would make more sense to send gently-used items that you have around the house. Better still, have a garage sale and give the money to charity.