back to the Black Table
  By now, everyone has seen the tragic footage of the flattened homes in Florida in the wake of the hell storm Hurricane Charley. You don't even have to call 145-mph winds ferocious. You already know they are. Florida hasn't had it this bad since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

And if the devastation looks the same, let's hope the clothing donations don't. Did you know disaster responders call the influx of used clothing "the second disaster?" After Hurricane Andrew, tractor-trailer loads full of used clothing were stuck on highway shoulders because roads were inaccessible. Truckloads of clothing mildewed and had to be burned because they were simply unusable.



I mean, make no mistake: there are lots of needs. More than 15,000 people are homeless because their homes were destroyed. Another 250,000 structures are damaged.

So what's the best way to help? If you live in an area directly impacted by Hurricane Charley, and you receive a specific request for goods from a local social service agency, then you need to honor that. But if you don't live in the area that was devastated, the best way to help is to make a cash donation to a responding group. Cash isn't sexy like your old prom dress. But funds support local recovery efforts.

Why is there such a problem with clothes?

I don't know, but look at this picture.

Yeah, so what, a bunch of shoes? This is in rural North Carolina less than 24 hours after a bad flood. This 400-person town in the middle of nowhere already had enough shoes for every man, woman and child in town to have six pairs. And shoes were still coming in when this photo was snapped. They almost walked in by themselves.

Now look at this one, taken right after a tornado pummeled La Plata, Maryland.

I bet your prom dress is in this picture. And does that look like stretch denim? Wait, do you see, uh, any culottes? This was just the beginning. Think of




How to really help.

Keep your pants, and pull out your wallet. The (Fla.) Governor's Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service has put together a list of agencies currently serving victims of the storm.

They are:

Adventist Community Services, 800-381-7171

American Red Cross, 800-HELP-NOW

Christian Contractors Association, 800-278-7703

Church World Service, 800-297-1516

Convoy of Hope,

Florida Conference United Church of Christ, 420 N. Magnolia Ave., Suite 250, Orlando, FL 32803

Florida Interfaith Networking in Disaster,

The Humane Society of the United States, Disaster Services, 888-259-5431

Lutheran Disaster Response,

The Salvation Army, 800-996-ARMY

Southern Baptist Convention,

United Methodist Committee on Relief,

Volunteer Florida Foundation, 850-921-0457



the back of your closet times a thousand.

Now to Pontotoc, Mississippi, a different tornado, a different region.

But look!

My God, are those the same clothes?

But, seriously, do you have a Great Pyrenees in the back of your closet? This is Harry, a Great Pyrenees whose owner got permission to bring him onsite after Hurricane Isabel in Maryland to cheer people up.

Harry or culottes? Which would you choose?

Put yourself in the disaster survivors' shoes -- all 9,000 pairs of them. And, dammit, just stop with the clothes. And, no, Harry doesn't need used collars from the back of your dog's closet. So don't even think about it.


Susan Kim is a disaster reporter who is sick of icky clothing donations that invariably become "the second disaster."