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Logistics and Disaster Relief: How to Help (and Not Hurt) Relief Efforts When You Donate or Volunteer

I just returned from the annual meeting of the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) in Kansas City, just hours from Joplin, Missouri. The outpouring of support from the public has been unbelievable. But based on feedback I heard from first responders at the meeting, unsolicited donations of water, clothes and other items have significantly challenged relief efforts. One relief organization told me they have thousands of cases of water in their warehouse. The AP highlighted this issue in a story about junk donations creating problems for relief agencies helping tornado victims in Alabama.

In my role with The UPS Foundation, I receive hundreds of calls asking for UPS to ship unsolicited goods. The challenge is that these donations don’t meet the needs of the relief agencies that are helping victims. UPS does not transport collected items from unsolicited donors for relief efforts. Instead, we’ve established in-kind agreements with relief organizations like the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, CARE, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the Aidmatrix Network. Our goal is provide logistics support to deliver the right items to the right place at the right time.

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UPS Executive and His Family Volunteer with American Red Cross in Tornado Ravaged Alabama

During the days and nights from April 25-28, 244 tornadoes ravaged the southeastern United States. This outbreak became the largest in U.S. history, beating the 170 record set in May 2004. In particular, on April 27 a massive tornado struck the Alabama town of Tuscaloosa.

In response, UPS activated its Logistics Action Teams to support the American Red Cross’s (ARC) relief efforts. The UPS Foundation also pledged $600,000 to the ARC’s Disaster Fund.

UPS VP of Transportation Al Bedran and his family watched the devastation unfold on TV. They were among the thousands whose hearts were so touched, they were compelled to lend a hand to those most affected. Al, his wife Wendy and her mother Linda Waldrep headed to Cullman, Ala., a town about 100 miles northeast of Tuscaloosa, and volunteered their services to the ARC.

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