Southern Relief: Donate Needed Items By Mail

There is a staggeringly small amount of media attention being directed at the horrific devastation and continued difficulties of the Southern US following hellabad tornadoes from storms that hit the region 25-28 April 2011. Over 300 people were killed from the confirmed 189 different tornadoes

– excuse me, according to the NOAA, 305 tornadoes from the storm, and with flooding, destruction, rain, and so many missing, the situation isn’t getting better any time soon. But I haven’t heard anything about it on the tv as much as I have on Twitter. The news hasn’t changed since the storm, though things are slowly improving, from what I can learn from local residents.

If you’d like to help, I have a few links and a few options for donation and assistance.

First, if you’re nearby, volunteers are desperately needed.

If you’d like to donate monetarily, the American Red Cross is one option. I know in the US, you can send the text message “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Another option is to donate to the Alabama food banks, which are serving many, many people right now. According to their website, none of their facilities suffered damage and they’re open – and helping a lot of folks who have no food, water, power, or possibly homes any longer.

This page at Magic City Post has a hugely comprehensive list of ways to help and resources for those seeking aid. (Thanks to Moira Rogers for the link).

And of course, because the writing community is made of unparalleled awesome, Help Write Now is organizing a community auction of goods and services to benefit the Red Cross disaster relief fund.

But if you’re like me, you want to gather up donation items and mail them down now, to know you’re doing something immediately that might help a little bit. Bitchery member Samantha wrote to me that:

It’s a bit like a war zone around here – National Guard trucks everywhere, a curfew in effect, buildings that look like they’ve been bombed – and every bit of help that people are willing to offer, we are willing and happy to accept.

Every day, Tuscaloosa becomes easier to navigate, with more trees being cleared away and more roads being opened. So I’m sure the Postal Service and/or UPS would be able to get donations to anywhere in Tuscaloosa people ship them. Several places around town have been set up as relief centers, accepting everything from food and water to clothes, toiletries, diapers, baby wipes, and tarps. The United Way of West Alabama (http://www.uwwa.org/news.html) and the Red Cross are probably the most well-organized relief set-ups around.

If you can’t ship directly to the United Way, individual citizens who still have an address (myself included) would, I’m sure, be more than happy to accept donations and get them to the appropriate places in town. The people who lost homes and are living in the shelters could use toiletries. Food and water have been brought in literally by the truckload (not that canned food would be turned away), but things like tampons and toothbrushes and deodorant and diapers get overlooked (and are lightweight and easily packed and shipped). I think I saw an urgent plea for laundry detergent this morning. Anyone willing to send clothes that they or their kids have outgrown would also be appreciated.

Then, of course, there’s Charlie Sheen, accepting monetary donations on behalf of the city following his visit earlier this week. http://torpedosagainsttornados.com/

Also, I’d like to point out that Tuscaloosa, though it’s gotten the most press, has not been the only town affected. The nearby cities of Cullman, Alberta, and Hackleburg are all suffering from the same devastation and getting less attention from the rest of the country.

Having lived through events that unify very disparate people with common emotions of empathy and a desire to help immediately, I know I’m not alone in wanting to help from far, far away. If you have any ideas or suggestions as to how we can help out the storm recovery, please do leave a comment.

And if you’d like to donate basic items like shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other toiletries, we can coordinate a mailing location for your donation so you can ship it directly to someone via UPS, FedEx or USPS, who will then deliver the goods where they’re needed. Email me at sarahATsmartbitchestrashybooksDOTcom with Southern Relief in the subject line and I’ll get you some addresses for shipping some help down south.

Susan sent me this link to items needed at local churches who are coordinate relief efforts. I contacted WAPI in Birmingham, Alabama, and they were kind enough to put me on the air and give me a list of items that were needed for donation – all of which are lightweight and easy to ship:

-clothing
-shoes (gently used)
-men, women, kids shoes especially
-underwear
-toys
-coloring books
-stuffed animals
-crayons
-all manner of toiletries

ETA: One of my maildrop volunteers asked at the local relief station, and they said they also need bug spray and duct tape.

As I said above, if you want to mail items to folks in need, I have a few volunteers who have asked to be mail drop locations, where FedEx, UPS and the USPS are delivery without impediment. If you’d like the address of a maildrop volunteer so you can send items to help, please email me at sarahATsmartbitchestrashybooksDOTcom, with Southern Relief in the subject line, and I’ll hook you up with an address. THANK YOU to the maildrop volunteers and for those who want to help. Those flat rate Priority Mail boxes have NEVER looked so awesome, huh?

And to those down South, probably without internet: even though there may not be tv cameras pointed at you, we are thinking of you, and we want to help. Y’all stay safe.

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  1. 1
    beggar1015 says:

    One of those tornadoes touched down in my county and killed six people. Many are still without power. I’d just like to add, if you want to donate food, we’ve been advised to give food that doesn’t require cooking (peanut butter, bread, etc.) and if you give canned goods, choose cans that DON’T need a can opener.

  2. 2
    Karen says:

    I am thinking that this will be a “prime” use of my Amazon Mom prime membership!  There are also a lot of free shipping deals out there (diapers.com/soap.com) that might be worth it to ship some of the needed items direct.  I will be emailing you, Sarah!

  3. 3
    Nancy Todd says:

    Sarah,  I heard you on WAPI today and I can’t tell you how much it meant to hear someone who isn’t from Alabama being concerned about the tornadoes and their horrible devastation.  One thing I keep hearing that is needed is toiletries but the travel size ones.  Those should be extremely easy to mail and not weigh much.  Thank-you so much and I will be perusing your website!

  4. 4
    SB Sarah says:

    Hi Nancy! There are a lot of us all over the US who are thinking of you and wanting to help – hence my crazy postal campaign. I am going to hunt down the travel sized items and ship them down. Thank you for the idea. Stay safe and please know that so many people are thinking of you and standing with you.

    @Karen: OH YEAH. This is a PRIME use for any PRIME membership you might have, to say nothing of retail therapy.

  5. 5
    Wade Kwon says:

    Sarah, thank you for putting together this list and for linking to Magic City Post. And thanks to your readers for helping us in Alabama in our time of greatest need.

  6. 6
    Diane/Anonym2857 says:

    Thanks for doing this, Sarah.  FYI, Samaritan’s Purse has been doing an awesome job down there as well.

    http://www.samaritanspurse.org/

    Diane

  7. 7
    Samantha says:

    I also just saw a request for bedding – specifically crib bedding, but I’m sure any spare linens would be appreciated.

  8. 8
    Gina says:

    Thank you for posting this. It means a lot. We need all the help we can get. The devastation is just numbing. As a librarian I am having lots of people come into to use our resources to help rebuild their lives. They are using the internet to file claims, and I’ve overheard several groups at tables having meetings to make plans about rebuilding. I’ve had several people say thank you to me just simply “for smiling” saying they needed to see a smile that day, then they go back to their homes without power, on a water restriction (water isn’t safe in many areas and must be boiled before being consumed), still trying to locate people, and just shell shocked. Anyway, thank you. It means a lot.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    Aimee A says:

    I just needed to say that this is freaking amazing. I love that there are good people in the world who go out of their way to help others. Makes me proud to be a SB member.

  11. 11

    Thank you so much Sarah and the rest of the SB community for being so full of awesome and helping us out.  I was not directly impacted by the storm, but I went to college at The University of Alabama and lived about 2 blocks from the hardest hit area.  I have several friends who have lost everything.

    If you are sending canned goods, either send a manual can opener, or send items that don’t need a can opener.  Feminine hygiene products are in huge demand as are baby products.

    Thanks so much for your willingness to help! Y’all are awesome!

    PS: spam code: answer78 – I hope at least 78 people answer this call to help!

  12. 12
    Patrice says:

    Hey, where are the Tide Load’s of Love tractor trailers? They need to get up to these areas! This list of items reminds me so much of the kinds of things folks in small towns in MS and LA needed after Katrina. My hubby and a friend went up and worked insurance claims and we packed a winnebago full of donations which he delivered to the St Vincent De Paul Society. One thing the lady told him that she so appreciated was that I had sorted the sizes of donated clothing for them. She said they had trailer full of misc. clothes and no volunteers to go through them. So having a bag labeled Women’s tops XL or Mens shoes 10 really helped her get those clothes to the people who needed them immediately. I just put them in kitchen can bags or grocery sacs, nothing fancy. I imagine batteries &/or flashlights would be helpful also. Also they loved the travel sized toiletries! I put out the word to just my circle of friends and rounded up bags full of hotel bottles of shampoo, etc. (Who doesn’t have some of those under the sink?) It really doens’t take a lot of money to do worlds of good. We can’t drive up there this time but I’ll be shipping things to the tornado areas. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected. Stay strong.

  13. 13
    Scrin says:

    Storage items are another good idea. I was thinking about finding the toughest garbage bags I could and mailing a few boxes up the state—just so people could have something to carry things in.

    I’m just thankful a few folks I know up Tuscaloosa are okay.

  14. 14
    Patrice says:

    PS: Tide Loads of Hope and a new Duracell Power Relief trailer ARE in Tuscaloosa helping out since 5/3. They are teaming with the American Red Cross but here is the address for Tide trailers with washing machines;

    WHERE:    University Mall
                1701 McFarland Blvd East
                Tuscaloosa, AL 35404-5827
    WHEN: Tuesday, May 3rd through May 12th from 8AM – 8PM

    These residents and workers are encouraged to drop off their laundry to be washed, dried and folded, free of charge. No bedding, jackets, or other large pieces will be accepted.

    Tide Loads of Hope was created in 2005 to provide much needed free laundry services to families affected by Hurricane Katrina.
    HOW:  People across the country can help support Tide Loads of Hope by purchasing a Tide Loads of Hope vintage tee by visiting http://www.tideloadsofhope.com All o.f the profits from the tees go to help families affected by natural disaster.

    DURACELL POWER RELIEF TRAILER
    Deployed for the first time, Duracell’s Power Relief Trailer allows community members the ability to reconnect with their loved ones through recharging stations for their mobile devices, distribution of key Duracell products including at-home safety kits, and information on how to get assistance in the area.
    WHAT TO EXPECT:
    Satellite phones, a computer kiosk station and Wi-Fi will also be available to help in recovery efforts. 

    http://blog.al.com/bargain-mom/2011/05/alabama_tornadoes_free_tide_la.html

  15. 15

    Wow, Sarah, thanks for posting this and leading the charge.

    I’m a huge fan of the Red Cross right now.  They are amazing.  As are the fire, police and other first responders. And huge props to the crews who worked around the clock for days to get the power back on. 

    I’m in the north part of the state, where the devastation isn’t quite as widespread as in Tuscaloosa, but it’s bad enough. Entire neighborhoods are gone, and so many were injured and killed.  I got to see a funnel cloud (as I was running for shelter!), but it zagged instead of zigged and missed us.  I was fortunate (only power loss for four days), but so many weren’t.

  16. 16

    Having lived through many a hurricane and their aftermath, my heart goes out to the folks in North Alabama and other areas affected by the storms.  If you’ve never lived in a disaster area, you can’t imagine how much it means to you to get a some diapers for your child, OTC meds/first aid items, and toilet paper.  I literally cried when I saw the relief trucks rolling in after Hurricane Ivan.
    PLEASE consider donating to this very worthy cause—my local RWA chapter has been asked to bring items to our monthly meeting and we’ll be sending them. Ask your chapter, writing group, church/temple/mosque ladies, everyone!
    And thanks to SBTB for pubicising this!!!

  17. 17
    Angela Fleming says:

    The only stations covering the tragedy are local channels, but even still, Calhoun County is being overlooked. We had extensive damage in Webster Chapel, Ohatchee and Roy Webb. The greater part of Webster’s Chapel is GONE. What houses that are left standing are so damaged that they consist of no more than a couple of walls. My cousin, his wife and two young sons, lost EVERYTHING they had. Both vehicles, house, clothes, toys…..everything.  Kids in both my daughter and son’s classes have lost their homes. Cherokee County, just north of my house, caught the destruction as well. Homes destroyed that were rebuilt after another devastating tornado on Palm Sunday in 1994 that killed 24. Don’t get me wrong, Tuscaloosa and Cullman are worse and i know people who live there that are still in shock at the damage and loss of friends, but my neighbors and the lives affected and lost here are important too. If you would like to see pics of the damage the television isn’t showing, i have an album dedicated to it on Facebook————> http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=549122928

    I am also willing to deliver supplies to these areas. Supplies, not money. I live 2 miles from a drop off location and have been volunteering with an Alexandria, AL church who are feeding the victims and rescue workers. My sister’s church is housing all of the out of state volunteers and electric company employees. If you would like to donate to the CALHOUN COUNTY AREA, email me at angelanbobby01 @ aol.com with “I want to help Calhoun County” in the subject line.

  18. 18
    Angela Fleming says:

    Or, instead of shipping to me, I can get the address for Asberry Baptist Church where they are also accepting donations.

  19. 19
    AmberG says:

    I’ve been getting updates on the situation from a friend of mine who made it through ok. She’s been working at a Walmart, and they’re selling out of stuff as fast as they can get it in (which isn’t fast, although things are improving). I’ve been helping out through her.

    It’s terrible though. If she hadn’t found a way online to let us all know she was still alive and kicking, i’d have never known she was in trouble.

  20. 20
    Samantha says:

    Another EXCELLENT idea for donations would be gift cards. Once the debris is cleared, the rebuilding efforts will begin, and we will need to be able to purchase building supplies. Nails, hammers, wood, insulation, plumbing… Gift cards to Home Depot, Lowes, and Sears, as well as to Wal Mart and Target would be very much welcome.

    Captcha: Filled 89. I hope we get 89 filled boxes of donations!!

  21. 21
    Blue says:

    I was so glad to read this post. For months we heard “send aid to Japan,” “help aid Haiti” and I get that, but what I am not getting is our own people are needing so much and the media isn’t encouraging people to help like it did with these countries.  The only place I see anything about it is the Weather Channel. Let’s help our own!!!

  22. 22
    Bree says:

    I just talked to one of the churches down the road from me in Tuscaloosa county.  They’re organizing supplies for some of the rural areas in Bibb & Tuscaloosa county, places that aren’t getting quite as much help right now.

    The things they need most are:

    - Neosporin
    – Bug Spray
    – Duct Tape
    – Toiletries of any kind
    – Underwear in any size

    For anyone who is looking for something to send.  :)

  23. 23
    SB Sarah says:

    I sent some bras and underwear via Amazon Prime (LOVE PRIME RIGHT NOW LIKE OMG) – and will be sending a load of duct tape and bug spray asap.

    Thank you to everyone who has emailed me and asked for a drop address, for your shopping and your collecting and your donating. You are so awesome.

  24. 24
    SusanL says:

    FYI, The Pioneer Woman aka Ree Drummond is having a giveaway of four $500 donations to the charity of her reader’s choice.  All you have to do is leave a comment in her post before noon Friday, naming your charity

    http://thepioneerwoman.com/blog/2011/05/quarters/

    Also, for each comment left on this post, she is donating .25 cents to a charity benefitting the tornado victims.  So, if anyone wants to leave a post, it will drive up donation.  I think the total is already over the $5600 :)

    We were lucky in that the tornados didn’t touchdown in our area (3 days of warnings and having to take emergency shelter at work and home), but on the heels of the tornados are the floods going on in states along the Mississippi river.  Local rivers and tributaries that normally flow into the Mississippi are backing up into local communities and entire towns are being evacuated.  This has even closed down part of I-40 (in AR), a major distribution artery across the lower US.

  25. 25
    sheri williams says:

    as an alabamian who got lucky(tornado came over my house but never touched down) i love how helpful you ladies are being. there are more parts than Tuscaloosa that was destroyed and the news has seemed to dismiss us pretty quickly. thank you for keeping the word out. Also there will be a huge volunteer drive in Birmingham this weekend. the city’s website has all the information.

  26. 26

    Thank you SO MUCH for posting this!  We appreciate all the help!  And thank you for spelling “y’all” correctly.  ;)  You’re the best!  <3
    ~lAUra

  27. 27
    Char says:

    I heard that the Al humane society was asking for food for the different animals they’ve rescued. I expect, like eveyone else there, they are pushed to the edges right now.

  28. 28

    Forty one counties have been affected by tornado destruction. Some small communities wiped off the map. As someone described it, N. Alabama does look like a war zone. We need and will appreciate, any and all donations, no matter how large or small. With so much loss of life and property, so many injuries,  I don’t think there’s one person here who doesn’t have a friend or relative directly impacted by the devastation. Although, most power is back on, we have a long way to go. But, it’s wonderful to know that there are still good people in the world willing to help. Thanks to you all!!

  29. 29
    Daphnie Walker says:

    During the recent storms, an EF4 tornado hit and destroyed my mom, & dad’s home. Both of my brothers, my sister -n-law, and my nephews, also lost there home due to this tornado. This was on Lookout Mountain, GA. I know that their area hasn’t received much media attention, but there are so many people up there who are devastated. It really means so much that all of you are willing to help. It seems that catastrophes, either bring out the best or the worst of people. It’s really nice to see the best. Thank you.

  30. 30
    Samantha says:

    YOU PEOPLE ROCK!!!

    Our favorite mail lady came several hours earlier than usual today, and her arms were loaded with four boxes, all marked “TORNADO RELIEF.” A box from Illinois, one from North Carolina, and two, count ‘em TWO “large flat rate boxes” from one lady in Massachusetts. I haven’t had a chance to open them and see where they’ll need to go, but everything will get distributed this afternoon when I get off. Keep it coming!

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