Mitt Romney’s hastily organized storm relief event in Ohio on Tuesday highlighted a difficult reality for aid organizations.
They’ll take canned goods and supplies, but they’d much rather have cash.
The American Red Cross, contacted by ABC News, offered a statement encouraging individuals to donate blood or money, adding that they are grateful for the support from the Romney campaign, and their solicitations of financial donations on behalf of the Red Cross.
“The American Red Cross appreciates the support from the Romney campaign and is working with the campaign to process this donation of supplies,” a spokesperson for the organization said. “We are grateful that both the Obama and Romney campaigns have also encouraged the public to send financial donations to the Red Cross. We encourage individuals who want to help to consider making a financial donation or making an appointment to give blood.”
The Red Cross and other aid organizations like FEMA have long said that donations of food, clothing and other small in-kind items force them to divert crucial resources away from relief efforts and toward sorting and cleaning donations.
Romney told supporters at the rally yesterday that the campaign would deliver the non-perishable food items to a Red Cross facility in New Jersey.
The campaign confirmed that their goods are on their way to a warehouse in New Jersey where they will be processed. And the campaign added that they have solicited financial donations from their supporters on Twitter and Facebook and at a rally in Florida today, Romney encouraged supporters to donate to the Red Cross.
Romney also made a personal financial donation to the Red Cross as well, the campaign said on Wednesday. They did not specify the amount.
The event, which was originally planned as a “victory rally,” morphed into a relief drive after superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the East Cost on Monday night. Romney greeted supporters carrying non-perishable items like canned food and drinks.
The campaign said that they had identified a site in New Jersey that would accept the goods, even as they acknowledged that the Red Cross does not solicit the donation of goods due to logistical concerns.
“The best way to help a disaster victim is through a financial donation to the American Red Cross,” according to the organization’s website. “Financial contributions allow the Red Cross to purchase exactly what is needed for the disaster relief operation. Monetary donations also enable the Red Cross to purchase relief supplies close to the disaster site which avoids delays and transportation costs in getting basic necessities to disaster victims.”
“Because the affected community has generally experienced significant economic loss, purchasing relief supplies in or close to the disaster site also helps to stimulate the weakened local economy,” they add.
BuzzFeed reported that campaign staffers spent $5,000 on supplies at Wal Mart before the event to insure there were enough supplies. The campaign confirmed to BuzzFeed that it had contributed supplies to the drive, although they did not specify how much.