AFTER TORNADOES ripped through Western Massachusetts in June, the Rev. Peter-Michael Preble admirably sprung into action by organizing a walk-in relief center out of a Southbridge warehouse. Now the Orthodox priest, who spent time volunteering in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and at Virginia Tech after the shootings on that campus, is under criticism for redistributing the center’s donated goods to other regional charities, like the Food Share Pantry in Webster and a Salvation Army in Springfield.
While some are accusing Preble of mishandling the donations, his error is unclear: Preble re-gifted the items only after he had determined that the need for them among tornado victims had dwindled. Preble’s logic makes sense. Boxes of dried pasta are more useful at an active food distribution center for seniors than at a relief center with few remaining beneficiaries. Plus, it’s hard to believe that the food pantries that accepted Preble’s donations would turn away families still recovering from the tornadoes.
All charities that accept donations in the wake of natural disasters should do their best to ensure that those items are given to their intended recipients. But they should also re-purpose excess donations when possible. And no one should raise a fuss when canned foods intended for tornado victims end up on the plates of the elderly or the homeless instead.