Volunteers face unique challenge with Henryville cleanup donations
Donations to tornado survivors are still headed to Henryville, but volunteers collecting them say they have a bit of a problem. Some donations aren't usable and some of the survivors are reluctant to accept help.
South of tornado-ravaged Henryville, donations continue to pour in.
Food, clothing, tools and supplies all stacked and sorted in a 115,000-square-foot warehouse in Jeffersonville.
Volunteers working through multiple agencies, under Adventist Community Services Disaster Response, are organizing all of it.
"It's just amazing the generosity of the American people, it's amazing," said warehouse manager Joyce Blake.
"People have suffered a lot and if we can do a little to ease their suffering, it's all worth it," added volunteer Bonnie Kupka. "After [the supplies] have been rough sorted, we take them from their bins and put em in boxes that are labeled and numbered and they're shrink wrapped and taken over for distribution if we get a call for it."
The generosity and sheer number of donations is impressive, but there's actually a unique challenge at the warehouse. They're having trouble giving the donations away.
They've found some storm survivors are too humble to accept them.
"We'd say, 'We're here to give you what you need,' and they'd say, 'Well, so-and-so needs it more than we do,'" Blake said.
"They care about their neighbor more and that's neat but we say, 'No, this is for you.' We want them to get some help too because we've got plenty for everybody," said Adventist Community Services National Director, Joe Watts.
Many storm victims also don't have a home yet for some of the donations.
That's why volunteers are requesting specifics.
Some donations given are more valuable than others.
Tops on the "don't donate" list: used clothing. They've already sent five semi trucks full of used clothing to Goodwill.
"Stacked as high as you could see, for about a third of the warehouse was clothing, used clothing, right after the tornado," Blake said.
"We don't need used clothing. We're getting enough new clothing that we'd just as soon give new clothing to people," Watts said.
Another "don't donate" item: water.
The pallets are packed at the warehouse with hundreds of donated cases. But nearly three weeks after the Henryville tornados, water is no longer an urgent need.
What survivors do need right now are tools for cleanup and construction.
"The rakes and brooms and those kinds of things," Watts said. "those have been going out, seems like every order to the area has some of that stuff on it."
"They need construction supplies, cleanup supplies, rakes and shovels, wheelbarrows, so they can get the stuff away from the area they're working in," Blake added.
Gift cards are requested too, to hardware and home improvement stores, so neighbors can buy their own supplies.
"You're actually helping the people, but also helping the local economy so it's a double blessing," Watts explained.
Just as recovery changes day by day in Henryville, so too, do survivors' needs.
Volunteers say the one constant is generosity.
Giving money to the Red Cross is an important way to make sure your donation directly affects storm survivors.
As for all of the collected items that don't end up getting used in Henryville, organizers say it will be donated to local food pantries and shelters so that people locally will be the beneficiaries.
Mail gift cards to ACS Disaster Warehouse, 700 Patrol Rd, Jeffersonville, IN 47130. They will be going door to door passing them out. Be sure to write the amount on the card.