HOW TO HELP
With Hurricane Florence causing flooding and wind damage in the Carolinas, residents will face the arduous task of cleaning up, repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses.
If you want to help, find some guidance below, as well as a list of a few of the organizations involved in recovery efforts.
FIRST, KEEP IN MIND …
Sending money is almost always the most efficient way to help in a disaster, according to the Center for International Disaster Information, part of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Otherwise, valuable time might be lost sorting through a mountain of donated goods that do not serve immediate needs.
Before you donate anything, it’s important to do a little research about an organization’s history and reputation. One way to do so is by checking Charity Navigator, which grades established charities based on transparency and financial health.
Other sites such as GuideStar, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Watch perform similar reviews.
Art Taylor, the chief executive of BBB Wise Giving Alliance, advises donating to established relief groups that can distribute aid safely and efficiently.
And a word to the wise: Attempted fraud sometimes occurs after disasters. The best advice is to check out organizations online and decline risky requests, such as sending your credit card number by email. If you suspect that an organization or individual is engaging in fraud, you can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud.
CAROLINA-BASED RELIEF EFFORTS
Michael Jordan, who owns the Charlotte Hornets and grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, which was hit hard by the storm, set up a microsite to direct donations to reputable organizations.
“The recovery effort will be massive, and it will take a long time to repair the damage and for families to get back on their feet,” Jordan said in a statement.
The Diaper Bank of North Carolina, based in Durham, is collecting donations for diapers and feminine hygiene products for people displaced by the storm. (You can also buy items on the group’s Amazon wish list.) The organization also is asking for volunteers and donations of diapers, wipes and sanitary pads.
And Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina announced the state itself was accepting donations to help meet the immediate needs of people affected by the hurricane. You can contribute online or by texting FLORENCE to 20222.
South Carolina is soliciting donations for the One SC Fund, which supports nonprofits that help state residents recover from natural disasters.
The state asked residents seeking to help not to “self-deploy” in disaster zones, because that could create an additional burden for emergency workers.
Rather, officials asked people to volunteer with established organizations and to bring food donations to local food banks or other charities.
THE RED CROSS
The Red Cross had prepared to help as many as 100,000 people across the region, and sent out equipment and supplies, including vehicles, meals and cleanup kits. You can donate to the group online, or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or texting “RED CROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Google is matching donations up to $1 million.
The humanitarian group was also soliciting volunteers who were already in the Carolinas and willing to work a six- to 12-hour shift.
And it’s asking people anywhere in the United States to consider donating blood. The Red Cross keeps a blood supply on hand to respond to emergencies, but it’s perishable, and natural disasters interfere with collections in the affected areas.
Mary Sellers, the president of the American division of the nonprofit United Way, said the organization was prepared to help its local partners with disaster response — but also that people should think about the medium- and long-term effects of Hurricane Florence. It’s a lesson the organization learned after hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey, she said. The group aims to make communities more resilient so they can overcome the challenges.
“After the immediate crisis is over, there are lingering issues that the community has to deal with,” she said. “You have increased mental health issues, affordable housing issues.”
The organization is asking for donations to its Hurricane Florence Recovery Fund, which will distribute 100 percent of individual donations to local United Way groups to focus on mid- and long-term recovery efforts in the Carolinas, Virginia, parts of Georgia and Maryland and other affected areas.
Sellers added that people affected by the storm — or inquiring about how to help — could call the help line 211 (or text 898211, or visit online) for information about local conditions and services in dozens of languages.
THROUGH TECH COMPANIES
Amazon announced you can now say “Alexa, make a donation to Hurricane Florence,” if you own one of its virtual assistants. The money will go to the Red Cross.
It’s the first time Alexa is being used for disaster relief. You can also donate to the Red Cross and Feeding America on Amazon’s site.
Facebook activated its Safety Check feature and a Crisis Response page where people can post offers or requests for help.
It also enabled in-app donations to GlobalGiving, a nonprofit that redistributes funds to vetted, locally focused groups.
The social giving platform set up a page for Hurricane Florencerelated aid efforts, and it says all donations are protected by its “GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors and beneficiaries are protected.”
One of the disaster-response organizations is Task Force 75, a volunteer group of veterans and others formed last year to help with rescues, first aid and humanitarian aid.
GIVING TO THE CAJUN NAVY
Numerous volunteer rescue groups go by some variation of Cajun Navy.
One registered nonprofit, Cajun Navy Relief, said its volunteers, who include boaters, EMTs and firefighters, have extensive training and have conducted rescues in previous storms, such as Hurricane Harvey last year.
As Hurricane Florence approached the Carolinas, the Cajun Navy Relief deployed to an area near Lumberton, North Carolina, with bass boats, airboats and other vessels, said Josh Richard, a spokesman for the organization.
The group has a PayPal account for monetary donations, which are needed to fill fuel containers and buy meals for boat teams and evacuees, among other costs.
Before the storm hit, many local animal shelters scrambled to transport their charges to safe locations, or to get them adopted.
The Atlanta Humane Society was caring for dozens of cats and dogs from Beaufort, South Carolina, and rushed to get other animals in shelters on the Carolina coast out of harm’s way.
After Irma last year, the organization put up 1,000 animals in an emergency shelter, and if needed, it could reopen such a facility, said Christina Hill, a spokeswoman for the group.
That protects animals in case shelters are damaged, and also frees up space for lost or displaced animals that come in after the storm. (Shelters that reach capacity are sometimes forced to euthanize animals after natural disasters.)
“We will take in as many animals as there’s a need for,” Hill said. The group is asking for donations through Facebook, which will be matched by a private donor until Sept. 30.
The Charleston Animal Society, American Humane and the Humane Society are among the organizations running similar donation drives.
Shelters also were encouraging people outside the stormaffected areas to foster or adopt. Some were waiving or discounting fees.
New Bern/Greenville, N.C., swift water rescue team members Brad Johnson, left, and Steve Williams rest Saturday after searching for people stranded by floodwaters in New Bern.