Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Aid: How Can I Help

First an earthquake, then a hurricane. The mid-Atlantic states were slammed in August 2011. If you’re not in that area, and you want to help those who are, here are some ways you can make a difference.

Help Someone You Know

Do you have friends or family in the affected area? Maybe a former co-worker has moved up there or someone you deal with for work is based there. Ask them how they are doing and what they need. Keep in mind that the mail may not run for a few days until roads are cleared of debris or flood waters recede, so it may be hard to meet immediate needs. Of course, if the person evacuated, depending on where they went, you can meet them or send them something to where they’re staying. 

Work As a Group

Churches and civic organizations often travel to the affected area, taking supplies like water, non-perishable food, school supplies and clothing (for people who lost their homes). They may help people clean up their yards or repair damage. Sometimes, if they have a portable food trailer available or can arrange to use an available kitchen in the area, they prepare and serve meals, so people who live in the community have one less thing to worry about; they can just sit down and eat. 

Give to Reputable Charities

The American Red Cross and Salvation Army will provide food, water and ice to people whose electricity is out or those living in shelters because their homes are flooded or destroyed. They also help people who lost everything get some clothing or shelter while they’re waiting for insurance payments (assuming they have insurance). Organizations like that have systems to help make sure the money gets to people who legitimately need it. Of course, someone’s always going to fool the system, and those are the ones you hear about, but these charities really do help those in need.

Don’t Forget the Animals

Many animals will end up in shelters because they got separated from their owners or maybe some didn’t have homes but they got picked up during the massive sweeps that will go through the hard-hit areas.  You can send money to an animal charity, such as the Humane Society or ASPCA that serves one of the disaster areas. A lot of pet rescue organizations will also go into help rescue trapped, injured or traumatized animals, and they’ll need money to buy food, bottled water for the animals and their workers, and supplies to help clean up and treat the pets. 

Beware of Scams

After a disaster, the con artists come out. You may see pleas for help on Facebook or online forums. Someone may come to your door and say they evacuated to your community from North Carolina and can you help them. Scammers will make phone calls to random numbers asking you to give money to help those in need.  Be wary. Don’t give to someone who calls you on the phone. Don’t click on links in emails to “donate now.” It’s much better for you to look up the organization you want to give to and call them or find their website on your own to donate. Emails that may look like they’re coming from an legitimate organization can still be fakes.

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