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Tornado Aid Agencies Need Money

May 14, 1999

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Stop sending used underwear. Please.

And no more tweezers. ``We have enough for the nation,″ American Red Cross spokeswoman Elizabeth Quirk says.

And single shoes with no match? Thanks, but no thanks.

People sending donations for the Oklahoma tornado victims are creating what the Salvation Army warns could become a ``disaster within a disaster″ by emptying their closets instead of opening their wallets. The relief agencies say they need money, not cast-offs.

``When people have lost everything, they don’t want everyone’s scraps,″ Salvation Army spokeswoman Kelly Drawdy says. ``Getting used underwear _ that’s a morale issue.″

The twisters May 3 killed 44 people in Oklahoma and five in Kansas and destroyed thousands of homes.

About 30 truckloads of donations arrive daily at the Salvation Army warehouse here, where a space the size of two football fields is bursting with clothes, furniture, food, diapers, toys and cleaning supplies.

The unloading requires about 200 volunteers a day and the Salvation Army is struggling to find enough help.

Inside the bags of clothes, volunteers have found worn underwear and items in such poor condition no one would want them. And even many of the new items are not essential.

``With cash, you can buy what is needed at the moment and you can buy only what you need,″ says Bob Waldrop, Catholic Charities disaster coordinator. ``We’re not in the middle of a desert. We’re in the middle of an urban area in a well-settled state. If it’s not here, we’ll go to Dallas to buy it.″

The deluge of tweezers came after someone not connected to the Red Cross gave a news interview about the need for them, probably because of complaints about splinters, Ms. Quirk says.

Waldrop received a large Federal Express package this week earmarked for the relief effort with four used pillows inside. ``I can’t even imagine what it cost to ship,″ he says.

Donors would do better to hold garage sales and donate the profits, he says.

World Vision, which has received about $1 million worth of donated goods so far, is trying to avoid a repeat of the Hurricane Mitch relief effort in Central America.

So many unusable clothes were donated after that disaster that some agencies were forced to dump enormous loads in a landfill, World Vision spokeswoman Cathy MacCaul says.

World Vision is considering selling any surplus clothes donated to Oklahomans.

``It’s better than throwing it in a landfill or burning it,″ Ms. MacCaul says. ``Maybe we can recoup the costs or use what’s left over for relief.″

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