Help the tornado'd? April 29, 2011 9:42 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to hear from MeFites, Southern or not, who know who/what/where we can donate to, travel to, or otherwise do to help out the tornado-torn areas of the US.

I've seen a few brief mentions in other threads, but I think this warrants a collection of options. I am so sorry for those of you who were affected, and I can't imagine what it must be like to lose so much of such a beautiful region. I apologize if this is superfluous, but I've been looking around in different threads and I haven't seen much in the way of specifics. Hopefully this can organize the effort, as it were.
posted by deep thought sunstar to MetaFilter-Related at 9:42 PM (43 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

You can always donate to the Red Cross.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:50 PM on April 29, 2011

thank you so much, Chan!
posted by deep thought sunstar at 10:01 PM on April 29, 2011

And let's say I own a pickup, and some time. Where would I go, and what would I bring?
posted by deep thought sunstar at 1:36 AM on April 30, 2011

When I was a skill-free teenager and a tornado ripped up my city, I sorted goods at one of the donation warehouses. It wasn't anything glamourous or life-saving, but it helped.

In your situation, if I thought my best contribution might be to go to an affected area, I would call whoever is coordinating the local disaster management response (if checking MeFi doesn't get you the same people!). I'd do that just because with widespread power outages and public safety already a problem, adding to the population of untethered people in the area might hurt more than it helps.

But if I got the okay (and for some reason wasn't told what to bring), what I would bring in my pickup would be bottled water, tarps, blankets, duct tape, and plywood, because those things are always useful during storm season, and they keep. Maybe an assortment of batteries, too, under the same theory.
posted by gingerest at 2:48 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Related note: I asked a question about what to put in modern emergency kit for someone living in the Southeast region. It never hurts to be prepared.

Also, volunteer with the local volunteer emergency response team. In Georgia, you can do this with ServGa. I took a 4 week course (4 hours every Saturday) and it was helpful for just covering the basics in terms of what do, light trauma management and basic do and don'ts.

Make copies of important paperwork (house insurance and ownership, license, etc), put them in a strong box in your house, deposit box at the local bank and scan them in and put them on Dropbox, which is a file syncing service. This will let you have access to your files from ANY computer than can connect to the internet and it's password protected. and it's free for up to 2 gig.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:44 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

That wishlist on Amazon was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for, and I sent a bunch of diapers their way.
posted by Malor at 5:25 AM on April 30, 2011

Do not show up in an area where thousands are homeless and expect to get a hotel room.

Bring a tent, bring your own food and water, bring anything that people down there are already in need of, you don't want to drain slim resources.

I'm of a belief that the best way to help is to donate to a well established, well run relief group (typically, for me, the Red Cross or Dr.'s without borders, depending on the where/what of the event).

Good for you for wanting to help.
posted by tomswift at 6:58 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

The 2nd link I posted (the compilation of links) has a volunteering section with a lot of phone numbers for each affected region. Someone answering those phones will probably have answers for all of your questions about where to go and what you can do to help.
posted by Chan at 7:25 AM on April 30, 2011

Hey, I guess I'm a naturally suspicious person, but how do we know that the Amazon wish list is a legitimate thing?
posted by crunchland at 8:05 AM on April 30, 2011

If you want to volunteer you will need to do it with an organized group. At least here they were heavily discouraging people from going in hardhit areas unless they were with a group. Fortunately there WILL be groups going in. There should be churches organizing such groups in the affected regions, and particularly if you have skills with a chainsaw, etc. they should welcome the help. Also there will be people needed to sort clothing, distribute water, that sort of thing.

Do NOT go as a lone ranger. For one thing you don't want to be mistaken for a looter.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:38 AM on April 30, 2011

BTW, particularly this being the South there will be a beaucoup of church and parachurch organizations going in to help such as the Baptist Men's Group, Samaritan's Purse, Salvation Army, and other church groups coordinating with the other relief efforts. The Red Cross will be there as well -I hear they have been passing out debit cards to affected families among other things.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:41 AM on April 30, 2011

As mentioned in the thread on the blue, Samaritan's Purse is a deeply iffy organization. Run by the well known Franklin Graham, they insist on distributing bibles right along with their more secular aid. They are based here in WNC; I had a run in with them years ago over whether their co-opting of the Buncombe County public schools for fund raising was an appropriate use of school time and materials. I backed down - but it left a bad taste in my mouth, because I strongly disagree with evangelism in every form and I do not like bibles included in aid boxes, nor do I like aid organizations that insist on church services before distributing said aid. So be forewarned that it may not be a group whose work you wish to support.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:54 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

mygothlaundry's point is well taken but let me mention that the areas affected are deeply religious, pretty deeply Baptist, and themselves won't have any ideological problem receiving from them. If you do have an ideological problem with them there are other groups but if you give to them just for tornado relief in this instance the people receiving will be glad to get the help-even the Bibles, if they are including them. And they certainly weren't insisting on church services before they helped people here.

Probably most folks here would be more comfy giving to the Red Cross but just judging from how things have gone down here those other groups are doing fantastic things as well and coordinating well with one another.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:07 AM on April 30, 2011

Franklin Graham is a birther racist. A lot of people in the affected areas are black.

Graham also said, in effect, that New Orleans was devastated by Katrina as god's punishment for immorality.

Know where you are giving.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:28 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Many if not most of the people affected in the tornado here were black. Just sayin'.

I am not going to get into a pissing contest with 4cheese about this. There are other places to give, so give those other places if you'd rather.

Another aside-a lot of those church groups have a lot less red tape to wade thru to get their butts down here or to Alabama, etc and get cracking. Government help takes its sweet time. To include taking its sweet time calling certain areas a disaster area (important to get Federal help.) So if you are interested in helping with immediate needs it's good to find those types of groups for that. The Baptist Men's group were the first ones to get down here from what I could see.

One thing to be aware of when giving to any group is making sure your donation goes to exactly where you want it to. I know the Red Cross is not as particular as some groups about that but considering the vast need that might not be a big deal at this point.

One other thing-there was a local clothing drive here which was supposed to be just for tornado victims. To make a long story short those donations wound up being accessible by anyone. So I suggest that any donations be in the form of money, or if you live closer to a stormravaged area they will also be asking for canned goods and personal items (such as soap.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:57 AM on April 30, 2011

Many if not most of the people affected in the tornado here were black. Just sayin'.

Yeah, well if you would just read before posting, that wasthe first thing I said.

Except in my case the point was to urge folks not to send money to an overt bigot's supposed charity (a bigot with anprivate jet who claims he's a Christian notwithstanding).
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:49 AM on April 30, 2011

I was referring to my city, Fayetteville, where Samaritan's Purse was one of the first responders. I'm going to give credit where credit is due, and they were here.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:08 PM on April 30, 2011

(perhaps you were unaware of the first round of tornadoes on the 16th which hit NC particularly hard.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:09 PM on April 30, 2011

Well, yes, and many of those affected by the tornadoes this week were black too. As usual, I don't get your "gotcha" point. The scale of the Alabama disaster dwarfs that of the 4/16 NC twisters anyway.

their leader is a bigoted racist motherfucking birther scumbag who thinks Jesus prefers rich people to poor ones, and who blamed Hurricane Katrina on the sinfulness of New Orleans. So do I care if they were "first responders?" With what, bibles and old clothes? And little Christmas shoeboxes too?

Giving money to SP is giving money to a bigot's fig leaf organization. That's my point. There are dozens of legitimate non-religious aid organizations working on the ground in Alabama and Georgia this weekend. Support them and you won't be helping legitimize a bigot.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:38 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Graham earns over 1 million dollars a year as the president or whatever he is called of "Samaritan's Purse."

If I didn't know better, I'd suspect he'd never read the relevant parable from whence his organization derives its name.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:41 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh sorry, it's only half a million, give or take, from SP. The balance of the million-plus salary comes from Billy Graham ministries, continuing the huckster tradition perfected by his venal, bigoted, anti-semitic father.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:42 PM on April 30, 2011

You know, this little exchange made me curious. So I googled for atheist relief organizations. Only thing I could find is this which is at and as far as I can tell is based in Great Britain. And even that link gives donations directly to the Red Cross.

So, I recommend for you to go ahead and give your donation to the Red Cross directly.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:58 PM on April 30, 2011

You googled wrong. The word you want is "secular," not "atheist." There are in fact quite a few atheist charities. But there are many more that are just secular, meaning they don't have a religious mission and don't discriminate on the basis of faith or target their work to communities of faith. People in trouble are people in trouble, Christian or Muslim or atheist. There are Jews and Muslims affected by this tornado wave too. And yes, I'll bet there are atheists.

You really want this to come down to the sinners vs. the saved, even now. You don't give an inch. This is why some people (ok, me) are repulsed by the righteousness of self-proclaimed evangelical Christians: you judge other people based on their personal religious beliefs as being worthy or unworthy of salvation, let alone respect. Just like Franklin Graham, declaring New Orleans a sinful city that deserved to be smitten, or rushing into Iraq in 2003 to convert its citizens to Christianity, or accusing the president (at whose inauguration he was invited to give the benediction) as a secret Muslim whose birth certificate might still be fake.

So when it comes back at you, whether from me or from Islamic radicals or atheist advocates, why are you surprised? You walked into the other thread blithely asserting that because many of the people affected were Christians, therefore giving to Samaritan's Purse was not discriminatory.

My goal in taking up the gauntlet is to make sure that wherever Samaritan's Purse is mentioned on MeFi, everyone knows what their leader, with his private jets and multiple homes and anti-Muslim bigotry, stands for.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:11 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

And to be very clear, I am not condemning Christian relief organizations or evangelical Christians as such. I know there are many doing great work right now all over the world. That's not the point. The point is that this particular group is led by someone who has expressed very un-Christian views, which makes him a hypocrite. I am condemning hypocrites who benefit personally from their "charity" and use the platform of their "charity" work to espouse bigotry and speak on behalf of God.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:53 PM on April 30, 2011

And to be very clear, I am not condemning Christian relief organizations or evangelical Christians as such. I know there are many doing great work right now all over the world. That's not the point

Thank you for clearing that up because honestly that is exactly how you were coming off.

I had no idea till you mentioned it that Franklin was a birther, and I am not following anything he has said politically. All I know is that their organization came down here when we needed help. I would assume that the people who are involved at street level at such an organization are interested in helping and couldn't care less whether some politician had this or that kind of birth certificate.

Right now there is so much destruction and devastation that honestly we need all the aid organizations down there that we can get. It wouldn't hurt if you would post some of the secular org websites so that those who feel similar to yourself could direct their donations. There may be some secular ones here other than the Red Cross but I don't know who they are. Could be they are working under the radar , so I am NOT saying they aren't here (for that matter my church has sent quite a lot of volunteers out helping but you don't hear that much about it mediawise so I have to assume that there are many groups helping that I don't know of. )
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:14 PM on April 30, 2011

Man, this fourcheesemac guy is single-issue threadshitting left and right the past couple of days.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 3:20 PM on April 30, 2011

I get where fourcheese is coming from. I understand the sentiment that St. Alia is coming from too.

Here is the deal: help in the way that you feel is best knowing that the organization that you give to has a past, a system of politics and several other unsavory elements in their past. Your donation is a claim of support for THAT ORGANIZATION to which you give. Know that. Process that before you give.

I agree that the politics of SP are absolutely abhorrent and contrary to every value I believe in. I would not give to them, but, they are there and working. That does MEAN something to those whom are affected. I understand that. I think that we all do now.

Let's move this along and figure out how to help the folks who need it most.
posted by zerobyproxy at 3:27 PM on April 30, 2011

Man, this fourcheesemac guy is single-issue threadshitting left and right the past couple of days.

Pot, you keep complaining about kettle's complexion.

You're the guy who, apropos of nothing, added an arguably racist revisionist history Southern apologetic to the tornado thread.
posted by orthogonality at 5:47 PM on April 30, 2011

The person to whom that post was directed certainly understood it to be a response to his own post and it is, thus, absolutely not "apropos of nothing." (I even included a quoted snippet for context so the slower folks wouldn't be thrown off. It's unfortunate that such subtlety escapes you.)

"Arguably" is a weasel word. Say what you mean. To be frank, being called a racist just makes me laugh. Where I grew up, the cry of "Racist!" just meant somebody either got caught doing something they shouldn't or was going nuclear to have their way. Nevertheless, I find it laughable how anyone could construe an answer to the question of why the south has remained so much poorer than the rest of the US that mentions its traditionally agricultural economy, regressive post-bellum economic system (that persisted well into the 20th century), racial strife and subjugation of a large minority population (that also persisted well into the 20th century), and hostilely insular stance toward other parts of the country as having any sort of "arguably racist" content, whatever that means anyway.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 6:30 PM on April 30, 2011

For pet lovers, there's Noah's Wish, the ASPCA, and the Global Animal Foundation, all either on the ground or working with groups on the ground in the affected areas.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:31 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

This thread is shameful and exemplary of precisely the problem in our country right now. Over three hundred people have had there lives snuffed out in a terrifying instant, thousands were injured and as many were left homeless. And we're having an argument about Franklin Graham.

Absolutely shameful.
posted by jefficator at 11:02 PM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Here's a list from Birmingham of ways to help.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:53 AM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ok, just got back from my church where I found out that the first week after our tornado (the April 16th one) the Red Cross had NO local money to feed those who were in shelters. Our church wound up picking up that tab (over 3000 meals served) along with all the other things we were doing in conjunction with the city. (Apparently the problem with the Red Cross was of course red tape.) Mind you I go to a megachurch so we already had the resources available.

This is one reason I am suggesting that if you were interested in immediate help you might want to look for more local groups to include church groups. . Of course the needs will continue and the Red Cross will be certainly part of that assistance needed.

That list mygothlaundry posted is definitely helpful in that regard.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2011

Right now need ponchos, toiletries, worried about rain tomorrow with no roofs in town.

Right now dont need gawkers, clueless volunteers, sunscreen, places are overflowing with volunteers which is great but not effective. in 3 weeks i'm sure it will be different.

my friends at rollbamaroll sports blog are tweeting up to the minute stuff.

the love we've got from everyone has been great, this is the most awful thing i've ever seen.

my neighborhood is fine, cool old places in town are fine, come visit and get drunk here, we have a good time and will need the business.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

ps when I say come visit and get drunk here, i mean later, if you come now better have a car full of tampons and sunscreen and toilet paper and do not pull out your fucking camera.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 9:30 AM on May 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

yeahyeahyeahwhoo has it. Exactly.

(PS-I see you are a Tuscaloosan. Good to know you are safe!)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:48 AM on May 1, 2011

This thread is shameful and exemplary of precisely the problem in our country right now.

I couldn't disagree more. What's shameful and a problem in this country are bigots like Franklin Graham.

If one is giving, not only is it not shameful to research the various charities before giving, it's the intelligent (and responsible) thing to do.
posted by justgary at 12:53 PM on May 1, 2011

It really is intelligent and responsible to know to whom you are giving. It's just pretty, well, tacky to use this thread to rag on Franklin Graham.

I mean, look, this is a man who heads a ministry that takes care of people in disasters. I bet if I lined up the heads of all the other charities you might have given to in the past year or so, and you knew their total opinions from Obama to cilantro, you might get a case of the raving fantods. The difference is at least most of them figured out that talking politics gets in the way of mission.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:16 PM on May 1, 2011

Oh, forget it. There are tons of other places to give and tons of people who are giving to Samaritan's Purse elsewhere, forget I mentioned them.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:18 PM on May 1, 2011

I bet if I lined up the heads of all the other charities you might have given to in the past year or so, and you knew their total opinions from Obama to cilantro, you might get a case of the raving fantods.

I'm sure you're right. That's why it's wonderful when someone like franklin graham makes it so easy to see his true colors.

The difference is at least most of them figured out that talking politics gets in the way of mission.

For you, his views are simply politics. For me, it's hate. As long as there are other organizations to support I'll refrain from supporting someone that deals in hate.
posted by justgary at 3:23 PM on May 1, 2011

I live in Alabama. If I'm just nthing stuff, so be it; sorry, don't have time to read the whole thread.

Best bet is honestly to give to the Red Cross. I'm not always a huge fan of theirs, but unless you personally know a direct need, that's the easiest thing to do that will really help.

If you do have time and inclination to actually donate stuff and/or come here, you should know:

- needs seem to vary a lot from one day to the next. Stuff I see on FB and twitter seems to indicate that when a call goes out for clothing, water, etc., it seems to be followed a day or two later with "that's enough!" Which is a good thing, but does make me less inclined to want to give stuff, and more inclined to give money to organizations that are bona-fide and can make good use of it.

- City of Tuscaloosa is requiring that volunteers check in and get credentials. I'm sure other cities which have been struck are doing the same. Just be aware that there's a big command and control structure, and some impatience with people who are coming in just to gawk or to "do something" without much of a plan, because it strains resources.

Biggest thing I'm hearing as a need which is hard to meet is housing. There are a lot of homeless people. Not sure what we can do from the outside - I have friends who live in Tuscaloosa who have let people stay with them. Volunteers, clothing, water, and other things of that nature seem to be coming in ample supply.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:24 AM on May 6, 2011

I am on the ground in Tuscaloosa providing disaster support. If anyone needs some context, or a Situation Report. Drop me a line. Here are two things to be aware of:

DSNAP benefits (Disaster food stamps) will be distributed at Coleman Colluseum on May 10-15. If you are in the affected area, you will qualify for this assistance. Bring ID, lease, power bill, something that ID's you. If you have it. Know that they are expecting thousands of people.

The National Guard PODs (water, ice, tarp stations) are starting to roll up by May 12. Those resources will roll into the FEMA warehouse.

Additional information: there are only 250 people in shelters. Most are with friends, relatives or at hotels. There are a good number of businesses effected so unemployment will uptick too.

The volunteers I have worked with and met are pretty darn terrific. Hardcore, staying, working, sweating...getting the job done. A hat tip to those that are here to help...and heartfelt hat tip to these strong folks of Alabama who are putting their community back together.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:57 PM on May 7, 2011

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