How you can help Hurricane Harvey victims

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Evacuees embrace each other after being rescued from their northeast Houston home on Aug. 28, 2017. (KPRC)

HOUSTON - Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Southeast Texas, bringing catastrophic flooding to the Houston area.

As the Houston area recovers, here are ways you can help:

Financial Donations

Money is the quickest, most effective contribution most people can make during times of disaster, charities and philanthropy experts say. And donating directly through a website gets money to a charity faster than a text donation, even though the text might seem easier.

President Donald Trump has sent lawmakers a request for $7.9 billion for initial Harvey recovery efforts.

Greater Houston Community Foundation

Mayor Sylvester Turner established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Donate at ghcf.org.

American Red Cross

Donors can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or donate through redcross.org. Or text "HARVEY" to 90999 to make contributions.

United Way

Donate to the United Way Relief Fund at unitedwayhouston.org.

The Salvation Army

Donations at give.salvationarmyusa.org. Or you can call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or text "STORM" to 51555.

Global Giving

Donations can be made at globalgiving.org.

Catholic Charities

Donations at catholiccharities.org or by calling 713-874-6654. You also can text "CCUSADISASTER" to 71777.

Rebuild Texas Fund

Donations at rebuildtx.org. For questions about donating, email donate@rebuildtx.org.

 

Volunteering

American Red Cross

If you're looking to volunteer, you can visit redcross.org.

Volunteer Houston

More information at readyharris.org.

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster

There is more information about volunteering at nvoad.org.

Samaritan's Purse

Click here for more information about volunteering. Call 713-851-5493 to request help.

 

 

Food Donations

Houston Food Bank

The organization will provide food and supplies. You can donate at houstonfoodbank.org.

 

Blood Donations

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center

The center has 10 locations around the Houston area, as well as eight mobile locations. More info on how to give blood at giveblood.org.

American Red Cross

You can give find locations to give blood at redcross.org.

 

Tips for donating

Here's how to make sure you are giving in a way that matters the most:

Give to established relief agencies

GuideStar's website has a database that lets you vet charities. You can find information on a charity's expenses, assets and revenue, as well as its programs.

Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, also suggests looking at a charity's website for information on how it will use donations. And look through local news reports for information on a charity's work, or contact the local United Way and the local Community Foundation - in this case Houston's.

It's up to you whether to go with a local charity that might know the area better, or a national charity that has wider reach. Palmer says "both kinds of organizations have their place right now."

Texting to give?

It might be tempting to make a donation through text and have the phone company charge it on your phone bill. It's easy, and it might feel as though it's the quickest way to get money to a charity.

But Palmer says that's not the case, as charities have to wait for the phone companies to release the money.

The quickest way to give is to go to the charity's website and donate directly, using a credit or debit card. That said, relief agencies will need money beyond first few days or even weeks, so if the ease of text donations appeals to you, tap away. Apple users in the U.S. can also donate to the American Red Cross through the company's iTunes and app stores. Amounts range from $5 to $200, and you can't use store credit.

Timing

Donations often pour in immediately after disaster strikes but peter out during the long recovery process. While there are a lot of immediate needs, Palmer says, "charities are going to need support on the long haul."

Consider saving some of your money so you can donate again in a few weeks or months. Better yet, set up a recurring monthly donation to support your chosen charity over time.

Some charities will say when they have raised enough for a particular disaster and use any extra money for their general fund, Palmer says. This isn't bad.

"One of the things this disaster shows is that it's important to have resilience," she says. "It's smart to just give and say that it can be used wherever it's most needed."

Crowdfunding

Group fundraising services such as GoFundMe let people raise money for friends, families, neighbors or themselves - as well as for charity. As always, do your homework before giving to a stranger or cause online.

GoFundMe has a special page for Hurricane Harvey pleas for charities, individuals and families. GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding site for charities, is trying to raise $2 million for local relief and recovery efforts.

Remember that donations are tax-deductible only if they go to a registered non-profit or charity. Otherwise, they are generally considered gifts.

Hold off on food donations

Donating food, clothing and household items can complicate and even hinder relief efforts, experts say. After Superstorm Sandy in 2012, for example, reports cited relief agencies not knowing what to do with the piles of clothing and other unsolicited items pouring in.

The U.S. Center for Disaster Information says such donations "require transportation - which is expensive and logistically complicated - and a pre-identified recipient on the ground who will receive the shipment, pay customs and other fees, sort and distribute the items."

Unsolicited goods, the agency says , are "never required in early stages of response, and they compete with priority relief items for transportation and storage."

It doesn't mean there will never be a time or place for such donations - check with relief agencies as time passes.

Consider special needs

Seniors, the disabled, children and even pets are particularly vulnerable during disasters. Consider donating to charities that focus on addressing their needs.

The Texas Diaper Bank, for example, says diapers (whether for babies or adults) are not provided by disaster relief agencies. Again, these charities need money - not boxes of diapers you picked up at Costco.

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Copyright 2017 by KPRC Click2Houston. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.