So I was finally sick of screaming at the TV and the computer, apoplectic with rage at the handling of Hurricane relief. On Wednesday, I emailed the local branch of American Red Cross to see if there were anything I could do (other than giving cash) to directly help out the 250+ Hurricane Evacuees that are staying at Fort Custer in Augusta Township, near Battle Creek.
They said yes, and forwarded me a list of items they needed, in large quantities. After I touched base with my friends and rounded up some donations for the cause, I settled on two items to provide: deodorant and q-tips. Now, I know that sounds stupid, but when I asked the ARC contact which two items were the most urgently needed, that’s what she told me.
I phoned around on my lunch hour on Thursday and found out that no local chain stores would help me buy the items by offering me a discount. Not Meijer’s, not Kmart, and I was warned by ARC to not even bother with Wal-mart. When I called Meijer’s corporate, the secretary got real snippy with me, too ( Hey, snippy secretary: You suck. I know Meijer donated a ton of product already, but Meijer is a Michigan company, headquartered here, and these are evacuees located in our state. Thanks for the friggin hospitality. ) Yeesh.
I finally got one of the independently-owned grocery stores here in town to agree to sell me the stuff wholesale, but they didn’t call me back with a confirmation until noon Friday, after I’d already left to start shopping. Didn’t really matter in the long run because Dollar Stores RULE, and the Harding’s wholesale price wouldn’t have been much cheaper.
The original game plan was for me to spend Thursday night running around and buying all the stuff, and drive it out on Friday, but I hesitated and waited to see if I could get any corporate sponsorship. So instead of spending today painting and last night running around, I flipped the two; got most of a page painted and studio errands done, then ran around buying stuff today.
So I bought 250 deodorants (125 male, 125 female) and 175 boxes of q-tips. Unsurprisingly, the q-tips were the buggerall to find. Things would have gone faster if I’d have just skipped the Rite Aid, Walgreens and Meijer’s altogether; Thankfully we live in a lower-income part of town, and the Family Dollar, Big Lots and Harding’s-with-the-dollar-aisle were all within 1/2 mile of the house, and each other. Another dollar store netted me 70 boxes of q-tips (score!) and I was off to Battle Creek with my toiletry booty.
The ARC people were, like, overjoyed to see me. Seriously. How awesome is that? I guess they really needed those items. If there was only one lesson to be learned out of The Great Q-Tip Caper, it is this: CALL AHEAD AND ASK WHAT ARC NEEDS. While I was there, I watched the ARC members turn away kindhearted couples who showed up with bags of food and pillows and such. These were ordinary, well-meaning citizens who’d tacked on a few extra necessity items to their shopping list and brought them over, trying to help out their fellow man. Only problem is, the items were one of this thing, or two that thing, and they’d need to be divided among 175 families. Not to mention sparing the manpower to sort and deliver each item as it came in. Because I called ahead, I found out exactly what they needed and how much of each item; I was able to fill a specific need (as dorky as it may have sounded initially) and therefore was able to help the ARC instead of hindering them.
If you have evacuees in your community (and doubtless many of you do if we’ve got some here in Battle Creek, of all places) and you feel moved to help out directly, please follow this advice and call your local ARC chapter to see what they need and where. They may need you to even do administrative stuff like sort toiletries or write thank-you notes to all the donors. Ya never know.
The total came to around $600; thanks to everyone who already agreed to pitch in and share the load. I’ve put the word out to our local Quakers, and they seemed interested in helping fund it too. If you feel moved to throw a couple bux my way though, I won’t say no. Paypal account is OrderVogelein@hotmail.com.