The United Methodist Disaster Relief Warehouse in Decatur, Alabama responds to countless natural disasters per month, including tornadoes, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the latest epidemic, Ebola. They hand out food, building materials, birthing kits, layette kits, school supplies, health & hygiene kits, sewing kits and cleaning buckets with, you guessed it, our trash bags!
The entire operation is staffed and run by an army of 900 rotating volunteers with an average age of 74. This is a kind, giving group that genuinely promises on their website: “If a group [of volunteers] is coming in the winter, a pound cake would be graciously shared with all.” But don’t let their age fool you. This is a capable, group of action.
When they heard that in Honduras they were using paper bags to clean up after a birth and the mothers were lying on black rubber mattresses they immediately sent birthing kits filled with receiving blankets, latex gloves, a bar soap and other items that cut the death rate by 8%.
When they heard school children in Central America were not being allowed in school if they did not come with their own paper, pencil and eraser, they instantly organized school supplies to be sent.
When they heard that the hospitals in Africa were running out of sheets since all bedding must be incinerated after an Ebola patient dies, they gathered stained and torn bed sheets from local hotels and then recruited women to cut and sew these sheets to fit the beds.
When a call comes in, the UM Disaster Relief Warehouse has an astonishing 25-minute response time to be at the warehouse, waiting to load up a truck or trailer with necessary supplies.
“At 2 or 3 AM it’s hard to find an open hardware store for roofing nails, trash bags and cleaning buckets,” explains Ray Crum, Director of the warehouse. “That’s why our phone number rolls over to our cell phones. We know that if someone’s calling, something’s happened and we want to get these people their much needed supplies as fast as possible.”
Their motto is: “Everything in the warehouse is doing no one any good. Let's get it out where it can do some good!” And doing good is what this organization is all about – in a big way. They recently sent 3,578 pounds of medical supplies to Africa to help with the Ebola epidemic and are gearing up for a second shipment.“We were able to compress eight pillows which normal stand about four feet high to just 27 inches,” Ray explained. Ray described to me, twice even, how they accomplished this feat with three men, a wooden board and some rope, but I’m still not clear how they pulled it off.
Tornadoes, like the 62 that struck Alabama on April 27, 2011, resulting in 253 fatalities, the most in over 100 years and $4.2 billion in property damage, often cause the most damage of any natural disaster.
“Trash bags are one of our most critical items after a tornado,” explains Ray. “After a home is struck the fiberglass insulation ends up on everything, especially clothes. Problem is, you can’t see it because it’s invisible. And if you go to pick up something with it on it, it’s too late. It’s gonna stick your skin and make you itch awful. That’s why we include a pair of leather gloves and 18, 33-gallon, thick black garbage bags in each of our cleaning kits for tornado victims. We’d like to include 24 trash bags, but we stuff the cleaning buckets with so much other supplies, there just ain’t no more room!”
Cleaning Bucket Contents
5-gallon bucket with resealable lid
5 scouring pads
1 scrub brush
18 reusable towels/wipes (no terry)
Liquid laundry detergent (two 25 oz. or one 50 oz. bottle)
1 household cleaner,
12-16 oz. bottleDisinfectant dish soap,
16-28 oz. bottle
50 clothes pinsClothes line (two 50 ft. or one 100 ft.)
5 dust masks
2 pair latex yellow kitchen gloves
1 pair leather work gloves/cloth back
18-bag roll of heavy-duty trash bags,
33 gallon1 insect repellant spray,
6-14 oz. can1 air freshener, 8 or 9 oz. can
“Another thing, all the debris must be bagged and brought to the curb because when the city comes to pick up the trash, they're not allowed to enter a person’s private property. We only include thick trash bags in all our cleaning kits because we know people are going to be filling them with broken picture frames, dishes, tree branches and clothing and then hauling these heavy bags to the curb. The bags we get from Plasticplace have never let us down. We won’t get our trash bags anywhere else.
”“We sent out thousands and thousands of trash bags during just the first week of the 2011 Alabama tornadoes to Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Hackleburg and Phil Campbell,” Ray recalls. “The destruction was so widespread and publicized that we got calls from as far as California, Oregon and even Gnome, Alaska from people who wanted to help.”
If our trash bags can withstand the damage caused by an EF-5 tornado, they most certainly can handle any trash you throw in it. We guarantee it.