On top of that, Sandy Hook's surviving victims drowned under thousands upon thousands of donated toys, bicycles, clothes, and school supplies. Literal tons of stuff ... all of which has to be stored, sorted, and disposed of once every affected family no longer has room to fit a 265th used Tickle Me Elmo in their home. You know what didn't get donated? The money and manpower to sort through all of it. So, the vast majority of the stuff wound up in a dumpster, because care workers don't have time to re-donate all that stuff back into charity when they, you know, have a bunch of traumatized kids to look after.
This is not a minor problem; after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, unsolicited toy donations poured in so hard and fast that they piled up on the tarmac to the point that planes delivering crucial supplies couldn't land, and volunteers had to waste most of their time dealing with well-intentioned donations instead of actually helping the bleeding quake victims.
Courtesy of the Center for International Disaster Information
"Yes, we wanted toilet paper. But not like this. Not like this!"
We're not trying to be too hard on these good-hearted people, but it honestly doesn't take much research to find out what the victims on the ground actually need. It's almost like people sometimes donate to make themselves feel better, with no thought to what is actually going to solve the problem (spoiler: That is going to be something of a running theme in this piece).
As a result, after any tragedy, approximately 60 percent of your donations are thrown in the garbage for the simple fact that they can't possibly be utilized. Instead, crisis workers beg you to do the same thing that you do when your nephew or niece has a birthday and you don't know them well enough to give a personalized gift: send some goddamned money.
Let him spend it on a meal. Don't FedEx him a burrito.
That, by the way, is the exact same thing you should do whenever a food pantry is holding a canned food drive. They get overwhelmed with expired/unpopular food items people have cleared from the back of their cabinet which, once again, go right in the trash. If you really want to help, they much prefer you donate cash. It's not as satisfying as the feeling of handing over actual, physical food to needy people, but it is far more effective.