Relief groups: money helps more than goods

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- An outpour of donations from across the country coming in for victims of Hurricane Harvey, as even more donors are gearing up for Hurricane Irma.

But while these donations have the noblest of intentions, disaster relief experts say too many physical supplies could actually cause a problem.

“By accepting those types of gifts, we can actually create an additional disaster on top of an existing disaster,” says Steve Hansen, the executive director of the American Red Cross Northeast Wisconsin. “It overwhelms the system.”

Right now, The American Red Cross is only accepting monetary donations, turning away all physical goods. Officials say the Red Cross has been operating this way for years.

“When in-kind donations come in, it takes people away from those client-based duties that they need to do with those people that are impacted,” says Lee Borofka, volunteer services for the American Red Cross. “So if you take a volunteer away and they now need to sort clothes, and to try to distribute clothes, again it's just resources that we need allocated in a different location.”

Instead of banding together with physical goods, relief groups say monetary donations are more beneficial, to be used exactly for what hurricane victims need.

“When the dollars come in, we can immediately purchase the items that are needed for those that have been impacted,” Hansen says.

That’s for things like toiletries, eyeglasses, specialized diet foods or medications.

Experts say a little bit goes a long way.

“A gift of $2.50 can provide a comfort kit, which would contain personal hygiene items for someone that's been impacted by a disaster. A gift of $5 can cover the cost of a blanket,” Hansen says.