From an email I received from the front-lines of the relief effort:
Did you hear the National guard commander last evening say this is the most astounding civilian organized evacuation and relief effort he has seen in 40 years of working on disasters.
Some detailed notes: everyone thinks of diapers, no one thinks of Depends to donate. Not only the evacuees and relief volunteers need Gatorade and Pedialite, so do the folks in the animal shelters and kennels.
If you are able to be generous, and able to get to a relief shelter, take rolls of quarters and $20 bills and hand them out, as folks are asked not to use cell phones, and run out of coins for pay phones. Do not take homemade food--lots of folks have food allergies and these are exacerbated by the smoke. Batteries of all types a welcomed for small radios etc.
If you are in a safe neighborhood find out who needs breathing help, and who needs books etc for kids. OFten the usual caregivers for our elderly and small kids cannot get in as normal. The product Airborne really helps and is not hard for most people to tolerate.
One of the civilian volunteer shelters came up with a solution to the ’validation’ issue of who was allowed to do what--they bought colored Tees--everyone who was an evacuee was asked to wear one color, everyone who was a volunteer wore another, and no one could get a Tee without identification. Also there, and at Qualcomm, all kids who had parental permission, were dressed in "red runner" tees and did errands under adult supervision. The teenagers at Qualcomm and Del Mar fairgrounds are saying "This is the best experience of my life, I can really make a difference."
All civilian shelters have let people come in with pets, and pet care is proving one of the most soothing activities to offer folks.
Anyway, everyone is saying how remarkable the experience is and I think that is because the attitude is one of do what is needed now, we are in this together.
P.S.--urge folks not to donate sugar-based drinks, and to take with them gloves as the most important task they may be able to do is trash pick-up.