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Avoiding a 'second disaster': What you should and shouldn't donate after the Marshall Fire

Disaster relief crews sort through unwanted items
toy donations marshall fire.jpg
Posted at 4:49 PM, Jan 17, 2022

LOUISVILLE, Colo. – There were certainly many useful donations that poured in after the Marshall Fire.

“Lots of toys for kids,” said Michael Filmore, a volunteer with the Marshall Fire Marketplace. “Brand new toys.”

“There was so much generosity in the community,” said Lori Abbey, a marketplace organizer. “It was beautiful.”

But there’s also an all too common theme with some of donations.

“Here we have a white board that is not so white,” said Jack Abbey, a volunteer.

“If you’re going to donate diapers, we would appreciate it if it was a box of diapers,” Filmore said holding a handful of loose diapers.

The marketplace took in shoes without a match, pots and pans caked with burnt food and too many broken appliances to count.

“To hand us shoes where we have no matches, or dirty underwear or this very dirty sweater with a rip in it,” Lori Abbey said. “It literally felt like they took their trash and dumped it into a bag. There were half bottles of liquids.”

Disaster relief groups often call this the ‘second disaster,’ which is when tons of unwanted junk overwhelms the disaster zone. Organizers say this diverts relief workers away from more crucial tasks.

“There were four or five hours that we were searching through stuff that we ended up paying for a dumpster to take all the junk away,” she said. “If each one of those people would have taken an extra five, 10 or 15 minutes, it would have saved us 120 man hours.”

RELATED: Marshall Fire: Resources for victims, ways to help, where to donate and more

In response to this recurring dilemma, organizations like the Red Cross offer some advice. Only donate new and gently used items and wash all clothing before donating it. Contact a local charity or shelter and ask exactly what they need.

Finally, cash is king. Monetary donations offer non-profits the most flexibility in providing support to our community.

So, toss that broken toy, toaster or trinket in the trash before dumping it on a donation center.

“Make it a little easier for volunteers by giving things that we can actually give away,” Abbey said.