Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Opinion

March 7, 2012

Appropriate storm-relief donations needed

The outpouring of help for southern Indiana communities obliterated by Friday’s tornadoes once again reveals that Goshen-area residents are concerned about the plight of their neighbors, even when those neighbors are 230 miles away.

Residents of Elkhart County have seen first-hand the devastation tornadoes bring to a community and the natural response is to reach out and help others who are now suffering. Already the students at Westview High School are planning fundraisers to help students in the Henryville school system and Henryville residents who were caught up in the storms and saw their community literally blown away. We applaud such efforts and hope other local school systems will follow Westview’s lead.

We would like to point out that we think the Westview approach to helping is the best approach. The students and staff at Westview are soliciting donations, but instead of gathering supplies here and trucking them to Henryville, the donations asked for are monetary and are being funneled through the American Red Cross and the LaGrange County Community Foundation. We think this is the best approach.

It seems to be very inefficient to hold food drives and accept clothing here in the Goshen area and then truck those items to New Pekin, Henryville and Marysville. When local donations of food and clothing arrive in those communities the organizers will find that there is no where to drop off the items and nobody available to distribute the goods. The people there are struggling just to gather what remains of their property.

An example of good intentions gone wrong was found in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when food and clothing was gathered in many communities across America and then trucked to the South. Here is what the Federal Emergency Management Agency said about that situation in October 2005: “Used clothing requires valuable and scarce resources such as time, money and personnel to sort, clean and distribute it. Scores of volunteers or relief workers are diverted from other, more critical recovery activities.”

We agree with those statements and urge our local residents to send checks, not used clothes, to help the victims of the tornadoes. Residents should follow the Westview students’ and staff’s lead and make monetary donations to the Red Cross or other relief agencies working in the area.

Local people wanting to volunteer helping to cleanup the area should also contact established agencies working in southern Indiana before they go. That way manpower will not be wasted and efforts won’t be duplicated.

We are again proud that our community has been quick to step up to help our Hoosier neighbors. We just hope that help will be offered in an organized, appropriate way.

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