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Our prayers and thoughts go to those experiencing the anxiety of living in impending disaster along the Red River. I was senior pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Ada, Minn., during the 1997 flood and recovery. We were on the receiving end of immense generosity as donations of supplies, food, clothes and volunteers assisted us in our recovery efforts. Our church became a center for relief aid as we housed the Lutheran Disaster Response team and the county emergency food shelf. A primary lesson we learned: Cash donations are most preferred. The food shelf for our county was housed in an oversized closet in the church. In the recovery, several trucks came with donations of food, cleaning supplies and other things. We moved the food shelf to a larger location in our church and became a small store. Many items were necessary. Other items were simply discards from retailers clearing unused inventory. My own memory was of continually moving cases of pink grapefruit cocktail juice that no one wanted until we finally started sneaking a bottle in every bag that left our location. If we had the cash, we could have purchased food and supplies from our local grocer (who needed the patronage) and acquired the things needed and people would use. Another location received boxes of used clothes. Again, many items were needed; however, it was apparent that some boxes were just removed from attics and sent. Volunteers took time to sort through used underwear, thread-bare clothes, and ancient dress clothes that no one would wear. A lot of clothes simply had to be put in the garbage. If we had the cash, we could have purchased from a local retailer clothing that was needed to simply do dirty work: rubber boots, coveralls, gloves, work pants and shirts. Relief agencies and church organizations are sought out in times of disaster recovery. In times of stress and immense need, we need to trust that they will do what is best to meet the needs of the people they are serving. In times of recovery there are a number of reputable agencies that will receive your donations and are in a better position to identify immediate and future needs that will provide the most benefit. If you're feeling the call to donate, please send cash.

THE REV. GREGORY ISAACSON, AFTON; MEMORIAL LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AFTON