10 Worst Things to Donate After a Disaster



Katrina, shoe donations
Volunteers seem a bit overwhelmed as they sort through the thousands of shoes donated to evacuees of Hurricane Katrina in the Astrodome complex in Houston, Texas. David Portnoy/Getty Images

Disaster strikes halfway around the world — a tsunami in Thailand, flooding in India, an earthquake in Haiti — and the prime-time news beams back images of displaced survivors wandering among the devastation in bare feet. Meanwhile, you and your wife have 20 pairs of shoes in the closet that you never wear. Why not donate your old cross-trainers and Birkenstock sandals to people who desperately need them?

But beware of the "everything is needed" myth. There are cultural differences regarding shoes and other footwear. In other words, those shoe-less flood victims might not need or want a pair of patent leather pumps.

In some cases, an organization will call for donations of a particular kind of footwear; flip-flops, for example, are lighter to ship and more useful in tropical climates. But in most cases, the best donation is cash. Relief organizations can use your money to buy bulk deliveries of sorted and sized shoes directly to the areas that need it most.