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Our church has sent a large number of volunteers down to assist in tearing out drywall, carpeting, etc., hauling belongings to the curb for pickup, etc. Our local area congregations are sending 140 more this long weekend. They camp out in tents outside a local church building down near the flooded area, bring food and water to be fully self-sufficient for two days and three nights + travel, and bring all the shovels, pry bars, wheel barrows, etc., etc., etc., they can take with them. A Jewish friend of mine called and said he had several large boxes of clothing he’d gathered and wanted to send through Red Cross for those that had lost everything. Red Cross told them they had no way to get the clothing down there, and were basically uninterested. He called me, knowing we respond to disasters, to see if I had any ideas. I told him that perhaps we could take his clothing down ourselves with the work crew going down this holiday weekend.

I checked, and our local church leaders checked with the locals down in Louisiana, and the consensus was that THEY can’t even develop the distribution down there because of the very thing that L Tecolote’s article discusses above. If you didn’t read it, please do – the Red Cross has a lock on everything, and clothing is literally put out on the street outside the shelters for whatever happens to it. They refuse to deliver it to the very people that need it – those just inside the doors of the shelters that the Red Cross “runs”. And unfortunately, due to the rather substantial amount of clothing my friend has, in addition to many of our own church members who came up with the same idea and started putting together donations before we realized we couldn’t pull it off, there simply is no room for all the clothing after they cram 140 people into vehicles and add the equipment and living provisions for the 4-day trip. There is so much more that we COULD do – but can’t.

So, trying to help him out, I called Salvation Army, thinking that surely they’d be more willing and able to help than Red Cross. No answer at their main local office for over an hour – then a worker that said she’d have to have the disaster relief coordinator call me back when he returned to the office. That was very early afternoon (after having called multiple times with no answer prior to that). Response by the end of the day? Silence, thankyouverymuch.

Sad beyond words that the government and the “official” NGOs have a lock on so much of the assistance that COULD be rendered. I’m actually surprised that our church has been able to somehow negotiate through much of the red tape to still be allowed to provide unlicensed volunteers to do demolition and repair work for free, and distribute food, blankets, and water from our own storehouses to the general public in large scale disasters. I will not be surprised when that gets stopped. And oh, do I have the stories about how that’s already happened in other sectors of volunteer assistance, thanks to asinine bureaucratic “rules” that prevent common sense assistance from being allowed. L Tec’s article is spot on in my own direct experience. The following question is ONLY rhetorical: what has happened to us as a people?!?