Donations meant for tornado victims end up for sale in thrift store

CLARKSVILLE, IN (WAVE) - It's hard to find someone in Kentuckiana who didn't find a way to give back to victim's of the March 2 tornado. But what has happened to all the clothes, toiletries and everything that was donated? WAVE 3 has uncovered some disturbing information about at least one group of items.

A member of Sew 'n Tell quilting guild in Clark County say she found two of the quilts she handmade and donated to the Clark County Red Cross to give to tornado victims for sale at a New To You thrift store when the Red Cross had told her they would go directly to victims.

Putting together a quilt is a simple labor of love. A love that the members of the Sew 'n Tell like to share with others. They typically donate to veterans at the VA hospital, but when the March 2 tornado hit their county, they changed plans. "If you've lost your home or loved ones or everything you've ever cherished, the one thing you need is comfort and that's what these quilts were intended to be," says Charity Quilt Coordinator Lisa Thilo.

With no way to get to Henryville or Marysville the day after the storm, Thilo thought the Red Cross shelter in Charlestown was the next best place. She says she was greeted with open arms by a volunteer. "She gave me a very warm hug with a tear in her eye thanked us profusely for bringing the quilts. She said this will bring a great deal of comfort to the people who lost everything."

She did not say they would end up for sale on the walls of the thrift store in Clarksville.

"We really regret that this has happened. Believe me I understand the value of the quilts and the love and attention that went into making those and the generosity of the donors," says Clark County Red Cross Executive Director Phyllis Wilkins.

Many items that were donated after the storm ended up at the New To You shop. Wilkins says it's not their policy to take physical items. When they get them they join with partners like the Thrift Store who says they put them on their floor for tornado victims to buy with vouchers given by the Red Cross.

"The volunteer should not have accepted or promised that the quilts would be given directly to those directly by the disaster," says Wilkins.

Thilo says had she been told that immediately she would have been more than happy to find a different way to get the quilts to storm victims. "We depend on certain organizations to take care of these things for us, to organize coordinate and if you can't depend on the Red Cross that shakes a lot of people's faith."

Especially Leila Baxter who, last week, just happened to be shopping in the store that was selling her quilts. "My niece was on the other side of the store and she said look at this, it's one of my quilts. We looked and there was another one. We grabbed them and took them up to the counter I said these were donated what are they doing here," she explained.

Her niece bought them back for about 50 dollars each. Now the rest of the group is in search of the other 15 so they can finally get them to the tornado victims.

Both the Red Cross and New to You say the quilts were likely delivered with clothes. Kenton Wooden with New To You says had the quilts been marked with restrictions, they would have delivered them elsewhere and not put them up for sale in the store with the other items. He has been in touch with the members and is hoping to at least get Baxter's money back for her quilts she bought. The Red Cross says they are trying to use this as a lesson for future disaster situations.

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