Reader comment: Erik V. Olson says,
People want to help. That’s good. The problem is they often can’t, but they think they can. And, in the end, all they really do is get in the way.
The single best thing Joe Geek can do is give cash. Not stuff, cash. Cash is portable, fast, and useful. Everything else has problems — even if it is something they really and truly need, because it isn’t there, and people and resources are needed to get it there.
The canonical example: Bottled water. Something otherwise useless that is critical in this sort of emergency. So you give a few flats to the ARC. Well, you bought them at retail, and now, the ARC has to put them on a truck (which costs money) and ship them down there (which cost money, and time.)
Let’s say you give them $20 instead. The ARC notes that they need water. So, they call a bottler in a city close to, but not affected by, the storm. They get wholesale or cost prices, as opposed to retail. For the same amount of money, they get far more water, far closer to where they need to be. In six hours, you’re delivering your flats to the local ARC office. In six hours with cash, they’re handing water to people who desperately need it.
Finally, of course, if what they really need is food, your flats of water aren’t helpful, but your cash is. So, the lesson:
1) Give cash. That’s the best thing you can do from your home.
2) Stay the hell away from New Orleans. Seriously. They’re ordering everyone out, that includes you. Do not go.
Give money. Whatever you can spare. I recommend the American Red Cross.
UPDATE: Amazon has set up a one-click button for American Red Cross Hurricane Relief, for ease of use. Get to it. (Thanks to Greg Storey for find this.)