GEMA says donations should help, not hinder, relief effort

Fri, 09/02/2005 - 3:35pm
By: Joanna Gibson

11:00 - Friday, September 2

With the outpouring of sympathy and support for Hurricane Katrina victims becoming a major focus here and throughout the nation, Office of Homeland Security Georgia Emergency Management Agency (OHS-GEMA) officials say it is important for those who want to help to realize what will be needed m ost in the weeks and months to come is cash donations to reputable relief and charitable organizations.

An outpouring of generosity from across the state and nation for the victims of this disaster will be critical to this recovery effort, said OHS-GEMA Director Mike Sherberger. But for the long haul, cash donations to Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) groups, such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, St. Vincent DePaul Society and others, are what helps the most.

In the past, disaster areas became clogged with donations of old clothes, broken furniture and outdated food that were unneeded, inappropriate, or poorly labeled and packaged. Offers made with the best intentions often contributed to the problem by jamming distribution channels and delaying other desperately needed supplies.

The best and easiest way for most people to help during a disaster is to make a financial contribution to the VOAD of their choice. A cash donation gives volunteer agencies flexibility and allows them to customize their services to the needs of disaster victims. It also enables the voluntary agency to purchase exactly what people need or provide vouchers for victims to buy things for themselves.

Often concerned citizens want to go to the disaster-stricken area to assist relief workers. But it is not that easy. Even the best trained rescuers can be crushed by a structural collapse; suffer burns, cuts and scrapes or broken bones; or experience respiratory injuries from the fumes of hazardous materials, dust and carbon monoxide. They also are susceptible to diseases such diphtheria, tetanus and pneumonia. There are other hurdles to overcome. Volunteers may be required to stay at the scene for weeks at a time, and preparations must be made for meals, lodging, transportation, supplies and other support.

For more information about VOADs go to and click on the State Members link.

login to post comments