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A cousin on the East coast is helping collect donations for Texas and I happened to stumble into a messy online argument over good non-profits versus bad non-profits, individual philanthropy and the relative merits of giving money or stuff. Shockingly, I had an opinion, which I was compelled to share. Since I shared it once, I thought I'd share it here, too.

As someone who lives in the Harvey-affected area and runs a non-profit, this is not a liberal/conservative issue. It's ... a practical/impractical issue and an experienced/novice issue. It's also a now/then issue. Taking them in reverse order: immediately after the storm needs are drinking water, boots, work gloves, face masks, good garbage bags, plastic bins with lids, laundry baskets. Bug and flying insect spray. Extra batteries/power supplies for phones. After the muck out is done, needs change. Then the focus becomes restoring homes and businesses and that takes money and expertise. It takes a long time and much more money than anyone can imagine. Along the way, like the Game of Life we will need to address health issues, school, church and civic issues. We will begin to yearn for normal, but it's a new normal. Leisure, the arts and sports will weave back in to restore some of the sense of normal.

The practical/impractical observation relates to silly donations of things like prom dresses and high heels, as well as, practical but I'll-timed offers. After Ike in 2008, I fielded calls from across the country offering great things, but we had no capacity to receive the items. Eventually, the children's library would love a truck full of books, but not immediately after the storm. There was no climate-controlled warehouse space to keep them. And an 18 wheeler of mattresses? Yes, but again no place to keep them right after the storm.

More complex and more difficult are the questions raised by allocating private donors' funds and public funds in the face of enormous need. Do you help people get back to what they had before? What about people whose jobs are gone? Should they stay? Should they relocate? Who decides? There is a role for non-profits and there is plenty of room for individual philanthropy. Find a way to help through direct action or through a non-profit or church filling a need you support. Many people who struggle with trying to judge people or non-profits donate to animal causes. I would suggest that each person motivated by the huge variety of needs on the Texas coast, look at the themes that matter most in your life and match that up with a similar theme here. If it's youth soccer, find a league here. If it's church music look through your own faith community for a partner on the coast. If you're a foodie, check out food pantries or food banks. And of it's pups, then the animal shelter is for you. Thanks, Ellie punk prom dresses

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