How you can help Hurricane Harvey survivors

Wilford Martinez, right, is rescued from his flooded car by Harris County Sheriff's Department Richard Wagner along Interstate 610 in floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Wilford Martinez, right, is rescued from his flooded car by Harris County Sheriff's Department Richard Wagner along Interstate 610 in floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AUSTIN (WYTV) – Thousands of people in Hurricane Harvey’s wake are dealing with the destruction, while recovery efforts could take months.

FEMA is already estimating that 450,000 people will apply for disaster assistance, and thousands of people were evacuated over the weekend.

Local volunteers from the American Red Cross made their way down to Texas to help residents deal with the aftermath.

If you want to donate, there are a variety of ways you can help out.

The Red Cross is among many local organizations collecting donations. To donate, go to the Red Cross’s website, call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or text 90999 to donate $10. The money goes toward recovery efforts.

HURRICANE HARVEY RESPONSE INFORMATION

The Diocese of Youngstown is also collecting donations, which will help provide short-term and long-term recovery services to those affected as they begin the process of rebuilding.

All of the funds collected locally will be forwarded to Catholic Charities USA to directly benefit individuals and families impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Donations can be sent to Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, Office of Social Action, Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, 144 W. Wood Street, Youngstown, OH 44503.  Gifts can also be made online at www.ccdoy.org.  Click on the “Hurricane Harvey” link on the homepage.

The city of Houston has also established a Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. People can donate online at www.ghcf.org, or send checks or money orders to Greater Houston Community Foundation, 5120 Woodway Drive, Suite 6000, Houston, TX 77056.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine offered the following tips to help Ohioans make wise charitable contributions to Hurricane Harvey victims and avoid scams:

  • Carefully review donation requests. Do some research to make sure your donation will be used as intended. After a natural disaster or national tragedy, some sham charities pop up to take advantage of people’s generosity. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites have been vetted. The first donation request you find may not be the best.
  • Evaluate charities using resources such as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (or the offices of other state attorneys general), IRS Select Check, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.
  • Beware of “look-alike” websites or accounts. Be skeptical of charities or groups with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. They may be intended to confuse donors. If you receive a message from an organization asking for a donation, confirm that the request truly is from the organization, and not an impostor, by contacting the organization directly or visiting its website.
  • Be careful when giving to newly formed charities. Some charities that are formed shortly after a natural disaster or tragedy have good intentions but lack the experience to properly handle donors’ contributions. Established charities are more likely to have the experience to respond following a tragedy and to have a track record that you can review.
  • Check out crowd funding campaigns before donating. If you want to make a contribution using a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising site, find out how your donation will be used before donating. Try to determine which campaigns are legitimate and supported by those close to the tragedy, and which haven’t been vetted. (Some people ask for donations claiming to help victims but ultimately keep the money for themselves.) Also consider how much of your donation will go to the website itself or whether you will be charged any fees for making the donation. Find out how the website will use your personal information. Be wary of sites that don’t provide a privacy policy.
  • Review claims carefully. Some groups sell merchandise online and claim that “100 percent of the proceeds” will benefit a specific charitable purpose, but this claim does not necessarily mean 100 percent of the sales price will go toward the cause. Contact the organization to ask how much of each purchase will support the cause. If the organization cannot give you an answer, consider donating another way.
  • Contact a charity before raising money on its behalf. If you want to set up a fundraiser for a particular charity, contact the organization in advance and determine how you can properly collect donations.

Signs of a potential charity scam include:

  • High-pressure tactics.
  • No details about how your donation will be used.
  • Refusal to provide written information about the charity.
  • Organizations with names that sound similar to other better-known organizations.
  • Requests for donations made payable to a person instead of a charity.
  • Offers to pick up donations immediately versus in the mail or online.

Those who suspect a charity scam or questionable charitable activity should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.