Preparedness & Recovery

As Florida and Other Coastal States Brace for Hurricane Irma, Here's How You Can Help

Trying to collect and send food, clothing, furniture and other household goods to a flood zone can actually interfere with relief efforts.

by Marion Renault, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio / September 7, 2017

(TNS) - If Hurricane Irma hits Florida as severely as forecast, aid for victims will be as urgently needed as it has been in the weeks since Hurricane Harvey.

About 70 Red Cross workers from central Ohio are stationed in Texas and Louisiana, where they are helping to run shelters, serve meals and deliver other aid to Hurricane Harvey victims. Three local workers were dispatched this week to Florida, Georgia and North Carolina in preparation for Irma, with three more set to travel to the region on Friday.

"And we expect more to be leaving in the coming days," said Jordan Tetting, spokeswoman for the Red Cross Ohio Buckeye Region. "We'll be ready to shelter 120,000 as they evacuate and we will ride out the landfall of the storm and respond from there."

The Columbus Dispatch will seek donations for flood relief at the ticket window and during major stage presentations at its Fall Home & Garden Show this weekend. Those funds will be provided to the Salvation Army.

Next month, the Columbus Foundation also will give donors an option to support the Houston Community Foundation's Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund during its Big Give event Oct. 10-11. Here is more on how and where to donate toward hurricane relief efforts:

Donate money, not goods

Trying to collect and send food, clothing, furniture and other household goods to a flood zone can actually interfere with relief efforts.

During times of disaster, nonprofit groups say cash donations efficiently allow them to buy the exact supplies needed by affected communities.

The most immediate way to donate is directly through a charity's website with a credit or debit card.

Beware of scams

Believe it or not, there are scammers bold enough to prey on the flood of donations after major disasters.

Before you donate, make sure you're sending money to a legitimate organization with the means to actually provide direct relief to communities affected by Harvey or Irma.

Sites such as CharityNavigator.org or GuideStar can help you locate groups that pass muster.

In Texas, CharityNavigator names Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society, Houston Food Bank, Food Bank of Corpus Christi and San Antonio Humane Society among the highly-rated local charities in the most-affected areas.

It also proposes donating to well-known relief organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

To support Red Cross volunteers, call 1-800-733-2767, go to redcross.org or text "HARVEY" to 90999 to make a $10 donation. U.S. Apple users also can donate to Red Cross through iTunes.

To donate to the Salvation Army's food and shelter efforts, call 1-800-SAL-ARMY, go to helpsalvationarmy.org or text "STORM" to 51555. Mail checks designated "Hurricane Harvey" to The Salvation Army, PO Box 1959, Atlanta, GA, 30301.

Religiously-affiliated groups also are raising money for emergency disaster relief.

To donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, go to umcor.org. To donate to the Mennonite Disaster Service, go to mds.mennonite.net. To donate to Catholic Charities, go to catholiccharitiesusa.org.

Crowdfunding sites are yet another option. GlobalGiving.org is about halfway to its goal of raising $5 million for disaster relief and long-term recovery. GoFundMe.com and YouCaring.com also have dedicated spaces on their websites for hurricane fundraising.

If you suspect an organization or individual is fraudulently seeking donations, call the Department of Justice's National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721 or email tips to disaster@leo.gov.

Consider donating again later


Donations pour in after disaster strikes. But recovery takes far longer than days and weeks, when financial support from good Samaritans can dwindle.

If you have a sum of money you're planning to donate, consider spreading it over several weeks or months. You also might consider setting up a recurring monthly donation.

@Marion Renault

mrenault@dispatch.com

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