The most unexpected thing you really needed during/after a disaster?

Girl 2.0 is once again designing a donation campaign at the high school. Last year, it was a pet food drive, benefiting local shelters and rescues, and offering pet food to individuals through the local food pantry, after Hurricane Matthew hit our area hard.

Realistically, though, that’s not a practical scheme for high school students in Georgia, trying to help those affected by Harvey. The cost of transportation would be greater than the benefit offered. And we both know that the best bang for the buck is a monetary donation to a relief organization. But people of all ages seem to prefer giving a “thing,” even though a dollar is more useful. So The Girl is trying to get creative.

If you’ve experienced a disaster and received help through donations, what was the unexpectedly helpful thing you received?

Probably too expensive to be of any help, but after going through Sandy the one thing everyone wanted was a portable battery to charge our phones. We were w/o power for almost 2 weeks, and we couldn’t even charge our phones through our cars since there wasn’t any gas to be had either (something like this:

This is a 5 pack set of disposable phone chargers, for $17.00. Like I said, too expensive, and probably Harvey victims would rather have basics like water, or even a place to wash their clothing. Perhaps people could donate some used already charged phone chargers?

Please thank your daughter for being such a caring person.

But maybe that’s a workable idea. I know a couple of local business owners who would gladly donate items to a bake sale, and the money could be spent on anything from phone chargers to replacing school supplies.

I came to this thread to recommend a phone charger too, but wouldn’t a solar powered battery charger be a better idea?

:smack: of course you’re right! :slight_smile:

I didn’t even know that was a thing! Cool!

If the girl and her friends can sell enough doughnuts, they could realistically outfit several local relief vans with a few chargers each. And do good things today and down the road.

Wind-up phone chargers have been available for some time.

How Wind-up Cell Phone Chargers Work

DIY Hand-Cranked Cellphone Charger

You can also buy wind-up radios and flashlights.

But if you donate a few thermoelectric generators they can boil water to prep food and beverages and charge their devices =)

I prefer solar to hand crank, I find smartphones take forever to recharge, and with a more sizable solar panel, it handles charging better.

How about some damned BOOKS!!! Having nothing to read is stultifyingly boring and makes the passage of time slow down to a standstill.

Along with books, I’d suggest decks of cards, board games, dominoes.

Insect repellent.

Seriously, the real work is going to be cleaning up the mess. With all this rain, there will be mosquitoes galore. For the houses that got water in them, all the windows and doors will all be open. Most houses in the Houston area do not have screens on the windows and screen doors are mostly a novelty. A lot of people will also be working outside.

When my house flooded in 94, the Red Cross came around handing out packages of personal hygiene items. The toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, etc…, was very welcome, but there was also a bottle of Skin-So-Soft, which made me wonder. Well, one afternoon of providing generous meals to the mosquitoes, I remembered people talking how SOS worked as an insect repellent, so I tried it. It worked. Not as good as DEET, but it kept those blood-suckers at bay.

Bleach; lots and lots of bleach. And bug sprayers to use it in for “final” (which never really ends) cleaning.

My survival goes back to Agnes '72 in the Wyoming Valley. The other thing that is burned in my brain is Carrol’s Burger chain. They provided basic meals (Club burger, fries, drink) for a buck if you showed ID from the flood zone and basically airlifted in a whole new set of equipment to the Wyoming Ave store and people to do the cleaning and work as soon as the water went down. That way the locals could concentrate on their lives and families and all of the rest of us could count on a meal no matter how dirty and without we were. I and a couple friends from back then have it on our bucket-lists to visit Finland or somewhere just to sit in a Carrol’s again and remember the one “mega-corp” that really helped bail us out. Literally.

Wait, what?! Screen doors and windows are rare in Houston?!

If so, I find that weird. I live in a similar subtropical climate. And yes, everyone has AC around here. But we also have screens on doors, windows, and back porches. (Ditto when I lived in metro Atlanta, so I don’t think it’s rural versus urban.) Hell, maybe we ought to be sending window screens instead of phone chargers!

Manual can openers. A lot of people stock up on canned goods and then lost power and have trouble opening the cans.

There are screens in the south…i assure you…we wear shoes too!!

Well, we own shoes. I do wear mine to the grocery store, and funerals, and to PTA meetings.


Are automatic can openers really the norm?

More so than a lot of us would think. We had a food pantry at church and I’ve been involved in several food drives at work; one thing always included are can openers. We actually ask specifically for pull-top cans as much as we can. Some families simply have no other opener than electric/automatic and those that do have something “old-timey” go through then issue of never having one handy when its needed or some old piece of crap that hardly opens anything. I hate to admit it but there are at least 3-6 times a year I pull the old P-38 (image below) out of my wallet and open something with it. Can openers are a pretty good idea after a disaster.

Huh ok, thanks for you clarification. Here in Belgium you’d find a couple of normal/manual can openers in every home. I’ve seen an automatic once, but that’s about it.

In the UK, in the recent ‘towering inferno’ disaster, which made many families homeless, there was a big response, charities and social welfare organisations were completely inundated by donations of food and clothes. Far more than was needed and much of it perishable or the wrong size and shape. People are compassionate but really, they have little idea what was needed and it caused a big headache. The goods had to be somehow recycled or turned into cash, so help could be given in a more controlled manner, when and where it was needed.

It might be a good idea to talk to established relief organisations like the Red Cross for advice.

My parents and brother lost their home in the 2011 Joplin tornado. Victims needed everything. Everything.

We will always be grateful for the donations that flooded into the city. There were large tents set up for the donations, and people could just walk in and take what they needed. A list off the top of my head: sunscreen, combs, nail clippers, tweezers, bandaids, hand sanitizer, soap, deodorant, brooms, tools, clothing and shoes, diapers, children’s toys, dishes and utensils, furniture, pens, writing paper, sunglasses. flashlights . . . .
Walk into Walmart and start grabbing.

An item we were extremely grateful for was a reclining chair with a lift. My mother was in the hospital at the time of the tornado (fortunately not the hospital that was hit); she was released as soon as there was a new place to live, and she used that chair until she died.

Following a disaster, even people with access to their money have difficulty buying what they need because stores have been destroyed. Banks, grocery stores, insurance offices are gone. Utilities and transportation are compromised. Many people have lost their cars.

Since the Joplin tornado, I’ve felt a huge need to pay back the generosity that was shown. When there’s a local drive for storm victims, I typically contribute wheel barrows, shovels and rakes, garbage bags, and lots of sunscreen and insect repellant.