The Straight Scoop on Donating after a Disaster

Chennai, India (1/15/05). Indian Ocean shortly after the South Asia Tsunami. Photo by Sue Edison-Swift/ELCA

For some reason you are motivated to help after a disaster, nearby or far away, natural or human caused. Thank you. The need is great. The first thing you need to do, though, is think.

Think about how you can be of most help. Think about what is best for the survivors of the disaster and not what is best for you.

This likely means

  1.  Donate money, not things, to the reputable non-profit, disaster-response organization in a position to do good in a good way without getting in the way. For me, that means the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, and Lutheran World Relief.
  2. If you live in an area outside the disaster zone, donate things (clothing, toys, food) to your local non-profit organization. Or hold a garage sale and give the proceeds to the reputable non-profit, disaster response organization of your choice.
  3. If you live inside the disaster zone, and are in a position to help, look and listen, keeping in mind you should first do no harm. Share your chain saw or wet vac, if you know how to use it, but don’t get in the way of emergency personnel and other first responders.
  4. Volunteer, as you are able, when and only when volunteers are requested. Volunteers are especially appreciated during the long recovery stage.

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, well-meaning people can get in the way and do more harm than good. To avoid this, see #1. Also,

  • Never send used things (clothes, toys) to a disaster zone.
  • Be hesitant to donate new things (clothes, toys, school supplies) after a disaster. Make sure there is a distribution plan in place. See #2.
  • If it’s important to you to give something tangible, consider giving gift cards to a business with many locations in the affected area.

Thanks for caring,
Sue (8/25/2016)

Sue Edison-Swift raised money for Lutheran Disaster Response (ELCA) between 2003-2009, which included during the South Asia Tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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The Decorah Chapter

front of houseOn August 17, we’ll move out of our home in Watertown, Wisconsin. On September 1 we’ll take possession of our new home in Decorah, Iowa. The Graebel moving van will pull-up sometime between September 2 and 10.

Why are we selling a home we lived in for just two years? This spring, Annie was called to be a campus pastor at Luther College in Decorah. This means we’d be four hours away from Walter and Sally instead of 2.25. For funsies, we put our house up for sale to see what would happen. We accepted an offer from a couple who went through the first day. The sale was contingent on our buyers’ buyers’ buyers closing on their home, so we are relieved it is all working out.

Having a hot housing market is fun as sellers and not so much fun as buyers. Beginning Father’s Day weekend, we made multiple trips to Decorah, each time determined to claim an address. We made three unsuccessful offers. We developed new respect for our Watertown house.

In the process, we fell in love with Decorah and had overwhelming experiences of home and community. Jenine Jordahl, who was a churchwide board member of Women of the ELCA when Sue was on staff, opened her home to us. We stayed with her during our house-hunting trips and will stay with her the two- or three-weeks between houses. Such generous hospitality! Twice Sue was moved to tears while visiting First Lutheran, where the Edison-Albrights and Edison-Swifts will soon be members. Muriel at Decorah Bank & Trust. Mark (the elder and the younger) and Kerbie at A.J. Petersburg Insurance and Realty. Karen and Jeff with Thrivent. Kathy, who took our coop membership, and it turns out, is on the church council at First. Jutta who did research for us. Rich and Linda, whose home we didn’t buy, and Mike, who worked with us as we explored building a new home.

When we were about to break the budget and build, Mark Lovelace, our Realtor, told us a house was coming on the market that seemed perfect for us. We put our search on hold for maybe 10 days. When it finally listed, Annie, mid-move, was in Decorah. She and Mark went through the house, giving Paul and me a video tour. It IS perfect for us. We immediately offered list price and crossed our fingers.

Because Annie and Sean were mid-move, Walter and Sally were staying with us. Mark called with the news that our offer was accepted while we were riding on the East Troy vintage electric train. Yippie Skippy! Whew!

About our new house: It was built in 2008 by a quality builder we met during our house-hunting trips. Three bedrooms, 2.75 baths, two-car heated garage, finished basement. The spectacular sun room (all those windows in the front of the house) will serve as Paul’s full-time office and Sue’s part-time office. The kitchen is a dream—including the elusive gas range. Everything essential is on the main level.

Best of all is the location. We think it is two blocks down to town (coffee shops, restaurants, the Coop), one block UP to First Lutheran, two blocks UP to Phelps Park, one block down to the middle school (grades 3-8), and one block over to the Court House where Nordic Fest activities are centered.

E-As at home in Decorah

BTW, Annie and Sean found their home in one weekend. Their friends in Stevens Point have friends in Decorah who have friends who were selling their home “by owner.” Walter and Sally stayed with us during for eight days during the move—the hottest days of the summer thus far. Annie starts at Luther on August 15. Sean will continue working for Sentry Insurance, now as a telecommuter.

We are so looking forward to the Decorah chapter of our lives. You are welcome, very welcome, to visit.

Sue Edison-Swift8/4/2016

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Things: A mother’s lesson

dishesWhen my mother was young, maybe 11 or 12, her family’s farmhouse burned to the ground. Mom, along with her mom, dad, and baby sister, Sally, got out with their lives and a basket of clean clothes.

It was the Depression. You didn’t go to the store and buy new. Neighbors were kind and shared the household items they could spare. For years, this is what they used.

After WWII, economic times were better. My mother and her mother were shopping at Gimbels department store in Milwaukee. They came across a discontinued set of china–a service for 16, with bowls and plates of assorted sizes. Dishes. Dishes that matched. Dishes that would do justice to the bountiful holiday meals that came out of Grandma’s kitchen.

The complete set with service pieces was on sale for $25. Grandma put $5 down. She and mom went home to spend the summer dressing chickens to come up with the balance due.

Continue reading

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A future with hope

DSCN0335, photo by Sue Edison-Swift, 2004

Kagemulo’s smile in this picture is misleading. She smiled upon seeing the video just taken during a visit to her home outside of Bukoba, Tanzania. Kagemulo had never before seen a picture of herself.

Indeed, Kagemulo said, “I cry all the time.” Three of her four sons are dead, and the fourth has advanced AIDS. Kagemulo cares for her son in her home, is the guardian for his two children, and is the guardian for two other grandchildren orphaned by AIDS.

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If you’re going to use my name, get it right

If you're going to use my name, get it right.

If you’re going to use my name, get it right.

The other day, a Ranger Rick subscription offer arrived our mailbox, a print version of a cold sales call. No doubt the National Wildlife Federation, publisher of Ranger Rick magazines, got our name by purchasing a list of recent subscribers to Highlights magazine.

It was a lovely sales package, customized in several places with the family name. So why was I annoyed instead of intrigued? Ranger Rick broke a cardinal rule of sales and appeals: If you’re going to use my name, get it right. The Edison-Swift family lives at my address, not the Swift family.

The basics
Let’s review basic rules about hyphenated last names. Continue reading

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Remembered Recipe

For my mom’s 60th birthday, I made a book of her recipes. It was a present for her and a gift for me. Are your family favorites recorded in a place you can find them?

While Doot-Doot cake is the go-to Edison-Swift family treat when zucchini is abundant, for daughter Annie’s January birthday I remembered “Swiss Chocolate Squares.” I brought the recipe home from my seventh grade home-ec class, and it became an Edison family favorite. So yummy. Enjoy.

Swiss Chocolate Squares

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Grease a 15 ½ X 10 ½ jelly-roll pan

In a good-size saucepan, combine the following, bring to a boil, then remove from heat:

1 cup water
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter (original recipe called for margarine)
1 ½ squares unsweetened chocolate (e.g., Bakers) Continue reading

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2015 Thanksgiving Card

Click on the family picture to enlarge the panel and read through the card.

To download, print and share the Advent/Christmas devotional booklet mentioned above, save this PDF and print double sided, flipping on the short edge. To print out just the prayer journal, save this PDF and print double sided, flipping on short edge. The first devotion is tied to the Sunday before Advent, November 22. The prayer journal is dated from November 23 to January 5. Advent blessings, dear ones!

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Come, Lord Jesus

Joy-Sue-BasicCome, Lord Jesus: Devotions, Prayer Journal and Prayerful Coloring for Advent and Christmas is a booklet I created for and with Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS).  It includes seven devotions linked to the Sunday before Advent, the four Sundays of Advent, Christmas Eve, and the Twelve Days of Christmas. The prayer journal offers dated boxes to note prayer prompts between November 25 and January 5. The line art in the booklet invites prayerful coloring. Request free print copies or download pages online. To print the devotional in a booklet format, save this PDF and print double sided, flipping on the short edge. To print out just the prayer journal, save the PDF and print double sided, flipping on short edge. Below, find additional information and ideas to help individuals, families and Continue reading

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Life-Changing Grace

Since 1985, every year on October 9, I remember a terrible-wonderful time of healing and abundant grace upon grace. The first time I told the story was in the December 1986 issue of Family Computing magazine. On October 9, 2010, “Life-changing Grace,” a LivingLutheran blog post remembered the 25th anniversary with gratitude. Below is a slightly edited version of that post. —Sue

It’s been 30 years. Thirty years since the time of amazing, undeserved and life-changing grace upon grace.

Paul, Sue & Annie Edison-Swift, November 1985.

The Edison-Swifts in 1985

On September 24, 1985, I took almost 5-year-old daughter Annie to the pediatrician to be checked for a possible ear infection. He discovered an abdominal mass.

After 36 surreal hours, we had a diagnosis: Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a deadly childhood cancer. We had a prognosis: My husband, Paul, and I were told it was highly unlikely that Annie would live to see her sixth birthday.

Normal ceased, replaced by test upon test, procedure after procedure. I imagined handing out a list of things not to say after Annie’s death. The don’t-say list included, “God needed another angel in heaven,” and “It’s for the best.”

At this point in the story, even after 25 years of practice, I stumble. The details, etched in my memory, heart and face make the story too long. So, I will summarize: For 10 days there was no hope. Continue reading

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Let Go and Let God

Let go and let God graphic
Graphic: Kathryn Brewer /The Lutheran

As a piece of popular theology, “Let go and let God” is trite and profound, hurtful and helpful.

It is hurtful when served with a side of “get over it already” or “you just have to trust.” The thinly veiled accompanying message might be “You are taking too long to grieve” or “If you faith was stronger you wouldn’t worry–consider the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:25-29).

It is trite when the perceived meaning reduces God to a Magic 8 Ball decision-maker (“It is certain”) or absolves personal responsibility (“God’s work, not mine”).

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