Hurricane Disaster Relief Kits

By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall

This summer the Bishop of Beaumont is promoting a good idea and the organizational skills to make it so throughout the diocese: small, easily transportable plastic bags of needful items for anyone displaced by hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, or other disasters.

And in this part of the world, all of us have been displaced, and will be again. Hurricanes and flooding have sent us on the road or onto the boats, sometimes without a known destination. Some of us have bank accounts and credit cards and places to go; many don’t. And the places we go or the places where we are isolated might not have the systems in place or the supplies to accomplish transactions. You can’t buy a band-aid or a razor or a towel if alligators are swimming through the muck where the grocery store used to be.

Many churches and other service organizations provide food, cooked when possible and as boxes of field rations when not, portable shower units, tents, tarps, first-aid, and other necessities for life as refugees.

The bishop’s throw-and-go (No, don’t actually throw it; you’d hurt someone) bags of non-food (and thus non-perishable) items are adjuncts, something to be handed out through existing services or by themselves as necessary. He has asked every family in the diocese to package a standard but flexible list of items sealed in a waterproof plastic bag to contribute to disaster relief. These kits are then stored in spaces in churches and rectories, ready for immediate giveaway to those headed to safety. The list:

One bath towel
Two washcloths
Three bars of bath soap
One hairbrush
Three disposable razors
One can of shaving cream
Two toothbrushes
One tube of toothpaste
One stick of deodorant
One container of skin lotion
One small general-purpose first-aid kit
One package of ball point pens
One container of multi-purpose anti-bacterial ointment
One small LED flashlight

Many of these items wouldn’t require a new purchase. Most of us have good old towels and washclothes that can be freshly laundered and packed. After all, someone under a bridge trying to get the kid cleaned up while the storm is blowing isn’t going to be picky about a new label and a brand name.

If you haven’t got three bars of soap, one would do, or maybe a couple of those little plastic bottles of shampoo pinched from the Holiday Inn.

Some things, such as hairbrushes and toothbrushes, ought to be new. Sure you can boil the germs and boogers and cooties out of them, but, still, new is better.

I saw one of these throw-and-go kits stocked, but on the list the first-aid kit notation was lined out and replaced with a box of band-aids. That’s a practical substitution.

Tiny little flashlights can now be bought cheaply by the dozen and they are so useful. We have so many illuminated gadgets in our houses that not until a power failure do we realize how dark the night is for us diurnal creatures. A flashlight is not only something for helping us see, but to be seen by – in addition to our voices, difficult to locate in the darkness, rescuers can also see a light for determining location.

What shoulda / coulda / woulda been on the list is certainly a topic for discussion, but a sine qua non is that the distribution and handling of any one throw-and-go kit shouldn’t require a crew or any strength.  Putting these together is something all of us can do through our churches, volunteer organizations, schools, youth groups, and businesses.

In a disaster even the best and strongest among us cannot accomplish all that needs to be done. The little throw-and-go kits are a small contribution that anyone can make, and make now, before they are needed.

Those who will use them – because there will be hurricanes and evacuations – won’t know your name, nor will the bishop, but God certainly will.

What do you think?

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