Lynchburg, VA- When you're responding to an emergency, you want to make sure your donations actually help. But sometimes, they do the opposite.
Gleaning for the World has sent 22 loads of supplies to the disaster area in the Northeast after Sandy, worth $1.8 million. But they have a plea for donors.
Gleaning President Reverend Ron Davidson loves helping those in need. But he says donating used clothing, which is so basic and easy to give, can bring an entire operation to a halt.
"They're trying to do a good thing without realizing that used clothing alone can block a whole distribution system to where people don't even get what they need," said Davidson.
Organizations like Gleaning for the World have to sort through used clothing before it's shipped to disaster areas. It's sorted according to size, gender, and condition. If clothes aren't sorted before they're sent, Davidson says they're a hindrance, not a help.
"We've heard from groups that have been on the ground up there, that used clothing has been dropped on the side of the street. I mean tractor trailer loads. And then the trash truck comes along and picks it all up, and gets rid of it."
Davidson says it takes hundreds of hours of human labor to sort through a tractor trailer load of clothes.
"When you're in the middle of a disaster you're doing everything you possibly can to keep people alive. And you don't have the time and effort to be able to do the sorting," he said.
So it doesn't do much good to receive a load of clothing - if you can't find what you need.
"If you need a size six children's coat, you can't go through a whole tractor trailer load of clothing to find one coat," said Davidson.
Davidson says Superstorm Sandy isn't the first time clothing has been wasted in a crisis, and it probably won't be the last.
"In Katrina in 2005 there were 400 tractor trailer loads that were put out in a field and burned that people had sent down, because it simply was not sorted right."
Davidson says the used clothes are not taken to Goodwill or the Salvation Army because it's just too much too deal with in too difficult a situation.
He says money is really the most efficient gift for helping disaster victims get what they need.