We drove by a bar that was decorated for Halloween, and the first thing I thought was that our entire town has been decorated for Halloween since Hurricane Florence. It’s so weird. You think that when a hurricane leaves the area, everything goes back to normal. But that’s not the case. It can take weeks, months, years even for things to get back to normal. So of course, you want to help, you want to come up with great items to donate after a hurricane.
But here’s the truth: People lose all the food in their fridge and freezer when electricity goes out (we lost all our food), people don’t have power to cook on a stove, but no one really wants your canned tuna and other items you find in the back of your freezer.
That’s nice and thoughtful. But so many of those people who need food, they’re also in shelters because their homes are destroyed in some way. We got very lucky but so many homes in our area lost shingles off their roof and many rooms got flooded. Those people don’t need canned soup, they need tarps — something in short supply around here still.
So if you want to donate after a hurricane, here’s what you should donate.
Great Items To Donate After A Hurricane
It’s impossible for me to explain to you how big the post-hurricane mosquitoes are. They’re triple the normal size, are literally the size of a quarter, and bite through clothing. It’s awful.
The first day we cleaned up the trees that had fallen, I went out in long sleeves and leggings so my skin would be covered. It didn’t matter. After 30 minutes, I ended up with 28 mosquito bites — on one leg!
The mosquitoes are so bad that our county actually called in FEMA to help spray. Twice. It helped a bit, but it took almost four weeks to spray. And in all that time, the standing water that breeds mosquitoes didn’t have time to evaporate. So it was a mess. An itchy, awful mess. Bug spray would have been an incredible thing to have.
We were so lucky that our roof was fine. So many people in our area lost shingles, which exposed their roof. It rained hard for days during the hurricane, and that water got into homes. For the lucky ones, it was just a little water damage. For others, it cause mold (which is a whole different issue).
People need tarps to place over the holes in their roofs. But with so many homes with damage, and so many stores closed for the same reason, tarps are hard to find. So look into purchasing and donating tarps to those in need.
Waffle House gift cards
Waffle House is basically like FEMA during an emergency. Waffle House will stay open to make sure people have shelter and food to eat. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it.
We actually were out helping a friend who was in an emergency situation after the hurricane. We had rushed out before dinner, and by 8 pm, we were starving. We found the closest Waffle House and had dinner. It was a limited menu, and was take out only, but the food was hot and that was perfect.
I’m not sure how Waffle House is during the daytime in an emergency, because we didn’t go, but even a limited hot meal is amazing during a tragedy. So yes, it’s nice of you to donate loaves of bread, but it’s even nicer of you to donate a Waffle House gift card so people can get a hot meal.
Diapers and formula
This doesn’t apply to us, so I never think about donating baby items, even when I’m just donating to church or a food pantry. But the radio keeps reminding us that there’s an urgent need for diapers and formula in our area.
Both items are really expensive, so I can see why people don’t donate them often. But you have to remember that there are babies who were displaced with their families during this tragedy, and not all babies are breastfed and cloth diapered.
There was a news story recently where a church was handing out blessings bags to those who were in need after the hurricane. And, in them, there were small stuffed animals for the kids.
It broke my heart.
You don’t know what their home is like. It could be completely destroyed. And a kid may not understand that. Young kids may not really understand much of what’s going on. So a small toy can be a huge comfort.
I’m not suggesting donating huge toys with lots of parts. Building sets and puzzles may seem like a good way to spend time, but that’s too many pieces that can get lost at a shelter. Small stuffed animals are a lot better.
When supplies are divided up, so many storage bags are used. It’s just easier to organize and distribute that way. But that means that lots of storage bags are needed.
If you want to donate them, pick up the clear, plastic bags with the zip close top. That’s what they’re asking for in our are. The ones with twist ties, or even with the snap and seal, aren’t as easy for the volunteers who are dividing up the supplies.
Clean up after a hurricane is so gross. You just want to peel off your clothes and throw them in the trash sometimes. You’re covered in tree sap or pine needles or mold or sweat. And then there’s the chance that so much of your clothes, bedding, curtains, etc. were covered in water.
So you have to do laundry. Lots of laundry.
Or, honestly, you might be without electricity or without a home and cannot do laundry. Companies like Tide came in to our area and allowed people to drop off two loads of laundry. Tide would then wash, dry, and fold your laundry and text you when it was done. That was a great way to get the worst of the worst done.
When you have to do it on your own, though, it takes a lot of loads and a lot of detergent to get back to normal. So a donation of laundry detergent is a huge help.
Gift cards for tree services
This is probably only if you’re rich, and only if you are donating to a friend. But I’ll put this down anyway because it’s a big need.
So many trees fell down in our backyard. One fell from the house behind us on to our property, so our back neighbor came over to ask if we wanted to split the cost of the tree. He asked, honestly, because it can cost a couple thousand dollars (like sometimes over $2,000 a tree). That’s so much money.
Of course, you’re not going to donate $2,000 to strangers, but maybe you can call a tree service company and work something out where they take $25 off the next estimate. Every little bit helps.
Solar battery chargers
When we were driving back to North Carolina, our house still didn’t have power. We were doing everything we could in the car because we could charge our phones and electronics there. It would be fine to be without a laptop for a few days, but no phone would make it hard to keep in touch with worried family.
During that time, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a friend post about a solar battery charger. So smart! I wanted to order one, but our mail was on hold for ten days so there was no way I would have been able to get it.
Luckily, our power came on a few hours before we got home, so we didn’t need it. But I am definitely picking one up for next time. You should too. And grab a couple to donate.
Grocery store gift cards
You know the hurricane is coming. That’s true. But we had plans to leave on Wednesday night, after dinner, instead, we left Tuesday morning before breakfast. So that’s six meals we had ingredients for that we left behind.
People lost homes, valuables, memories, possessions. We lost a garbage bag full of condiments and expensive Japanese sauces and another bag of perishables. And then everything in our freezer.
And some people around here hunt, then freeze the meat to feed their families in the off season. All that food is gone.
So if you want to help people get on their feet, get them grocery store gift cards and let them fill their fridge. Don’t assume you know what people like to eat and donate boxes of pasta and jars of sauce to those in need. Us? We have tons of marinara sauce. What we don’t have right now is gyoza sauce. Or mayo. Or sliced cheese.
We had about a foot of pine needles to rake after the hurricane. Well, a foot for Pete to rake. He handled that part of the clean up.
He used a blower for much of it, but then the blower ran out of gas. So he has to use a rake for the rest.
And it doesn’t sound bad. He was raking pine needles. But there were so many pine needles, and they were so heavy from the rain, our rake actually broke. We were able to borrow one from my parents to finish clean up, but for those who don’t have family nearby, a rake donation would help them so much.
Gas station gift cards
We left New York on Saturday and didn’t get back to North Carolina until Monday. That’s a lot of driving.
Luckily, my dad drove, which means we used my parents’ gas. We had to stop a few more times than usual, and we drove in a roundabout way, so it took more gas than usual.
That happened to so many of our friends. They evacuated to safety and then had to drive back via an out of the way path. So many roads were closed, so a direct path was impossible.
For people living paycheck to paycheck, this extra gas is an unneeded expense. A gas card to help offset that is a huge help.
Okay, this is a silly one, but this is what I wanted. If anyone wants to donate anything to me, donate a massage. Not a creepy one where you offer to come over to give me a rub down. But a real actual gift of a massage at the local spa.
This hurricane has me stressed out. Has. Because it’s still a strange situation. And it’s not over.
And poor Pete had so much yard work to do. We had about a foot of pine needles over half an acre in the backyard, and it was so much for him to blow and rake. And then he dragged fallen trees into the front yard for debris pickup. So his poor body is in need of a massage too.
I’m going to make us appointments and surprise Pete. And that will be my donation to hurricane victims.
There are memes that go around before every catastrophe mocking people buying all the bread and milk. And stores sell out of bottled water.
But here’s the thing. They tell you to stock up with a gallon of water, per person or pet, for three days. What they don’t tell you is you could return to a boil advisory, which means the water is unsafe to consume unless you boil it.
So imagine you just want a sip of water. You can’t just turn on the tap. Instead, you can turn on the tap, pour it into a pot, boil it, cool it, put it in a cup, drink it. By then, your thirst has either passed or gotten out of control. Opening a bottle of water is so much easier.
So donate water, but new, fresh water. There was water handed out at donation stations here that actually wasn’t drinkable. No one really knew what happened (maybe the bottles heated, maybe the water was old, who knows), but everyone who received the donated water had the same problem. So donate fresh, new bottled water.
Have you been through a hurricane? What would you have liked to receive?