Palm Beach County residents looking for a way to help typhoon victims in the Philippines should donate money, not goods like food and clothing, local disaster assistance officials urged Wednesday.
Damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan has made it nearly impossible for nonprofit relief organizations to distribute large quantities of food, medical supplies, and clothing, local officials said.
It is also time consuming and costly to ship good from Palm Beach County to the Philippines, they add. Many of those goods can be purchased closer to the disaster area.
Tara Holcomb, a spokeswoman with the Salvation Army of Palm Beach County, said the non-profit had people stationed in the Philippines. Those officials report that damage to the road network has made it “logistically challenging” to distribute goods, Holcomb said.
“The best means for people to support are financial,” she said.
Donations can be made by logging on to salvationarmyusa.org or by calling (800) SAL-ARMY.
Tammy Jackson-Moore, director of communications for the Palm Beaches-Treasure Coast region of the American Red Cross, said the local chapter has received many calls from residents looking to help those in the Philippines. The non-profit is asking residents to donate money through its website: www.redcross.org/donate. Contributions can also be made by calling (800) RED CROSS, she said.
“That is the fastest and most efficient way to help,” Jackson-Moore said.
Local Red Cross officials are working with three families — two from the Treasure Coast and one from Palm Beach County — who are trying to reach relatives in the Philippines, she said.
Local officials with both the Red Cross and the Salvation Army said they have not been asked by their national organizations to send volunteers to the disaster area.
Karl Mahler, a retired U.S. State Department officer who spent eight years working with international disaster response teams, said large shipments of food and supplies can be overwhelming immediately following a disaster. There is often no place to store it and no way to distribute it, he said.
“The best thing that people can do is to give money to some of the recognized organizations because they can put the money into the community,” Mahler said.
Mahler, a Vero Beach resident who traveled to Sarajevo and Central and South America to help after disasters, said he has seen large quantities of food and supplies left outside in the rain because there is not enough warehouse space to store the flood of donations.
“It is timing,” Mahler said. “Certain things are needed now. In 10 days from now other things are needed. And 30 days from now, other things. Rather than one mass huge bulk of stuff.”