Donate responsibly to disaster relief

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News is continuing to pour out of the Gulf Coast where Hurricane Harvey made landfall Saturday night as a Category 4 storm and has since flooded that area of our nation with record-breaking rain totals.

South Carolinians have not-too-dim memories of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and ice storms which have impacted our community. Those memories also include how other communities sent people and supplies to help us recover.

Now it is our time to help them.

The very best thing we can do is to contribute money to those non-profit agencies who specialize in emergency response.

Texas emergency management officials and other leadership ask that people donate to the American Red Cross but there are also other agencies which are helping with the unfolding disaster.

According the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “When disaster strikes, every little bit helps.” To make the most of your contributions, consider these tips for donating and volunteering responsibly:

• Cash is the most efficient method of donating. Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. Remember, unsolicited donated goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable foodstuffs require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.

• Donate through a trusted organization. At the national level, many voluntary-, faith- and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors. In addition to the national members, each state has its own list of voluntary organizations active in disasters. If you’d like to donate or volunteer to assist those affected by disaster, these organizations are the best place to start. A list of those organizaitons which

• Affiliate with existing non-profit organizations before coming to the disaster area. Immediately following a disaster, a community can become easily overwhelmed by the amount of generous people who want to help. Contacting and affiliating with an established organization will help to ensure that you are appropriately trained to respond in the most effective way.

• Be safe. Do not self deploy until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support. Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites and opportunities have been identified. Once assigned a position, make sure you have been given an assignment and are wearing proper safety gear for the task.

• Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention. There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster - especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.

For more information on donating responsibly, go online to https://www.fema.gov/volunteer-donate-responsibly.

The website includes links to information and resources which can be valuable in decisions on how to help those who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Give with your heart but use good practices when donating.