How you can help people affected by Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma impacts West Florida

Hurricane Irma made landfall in parts of West Florida, with strong winds and rain impacting many communities.
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Hurricane Irma made landfall in parts of West Florida, with strong winds and rain impacting many communities.

As Hurricane Harvey devastated areas of Texas, many people rushed to give their time, attention and money to the victims of the storm. Now, organizations are asking for the same as Irma approaches mainland United States.

Irma is now a tropical storm moving up the Gulf Coast of Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center. It has already left devastation in its wake in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic and others.

For those who want to help relief efforts, several charitable organizations are already soliciting donations. The Center for International Disaster Information, part of the U.S. Agency for International Development, has some tips on the best way to aid disaster relief efforts. Also, you can check out charities on Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or the Better Business Bureau.

Google has even joined the fray – if you Google “Hurricane Irma” and scroll past alerts and news items, a small window prompts you to donate for “effective local impact.”

Donations made through that widget go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, according to Google. It’s an “intermediary organization that specializes in distributing your donations to local nonprofits that work in the affected region, to ensure funds reach those who need it the most.”

Right now, those funds will go towards “preparing for landfall and providing immediate relief to survivors – temporary shelter, food, water, and other basic needs – and watching how the storm unfolds over the course of the next week,” according to CDP’s website. Donations after the storm “will focus on medium and long-term rebuilding needs” such as “rebuilding homes, businesses, infrastructure, meeting the needs of young children, and supporting mental health needs.”

Some Cortez residents were still around to ride out the storm Sunday morning while a NE Taylor Boatworks employee was doing last-minute security measures for his boat.

It’s the same organization Facebook favored for Harvey relief, pledging up to $1 million in matching donations, rather than its typical partnership with Red Cross. The Red Cross, which is not an intermediary but directly provides aid to areas, has come under increased scrutiny after reportedly bungled disaster relief efforts following superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. ProPublica has a series of investigations into the organization’s alleged “failures,” on a page with the description, “How one of the country’s most venerated charities has failed disaster victims, broken promises and made dubious claims of success.”

The Red Cross has denied many of the negative reports and still has a B+ rating from Charity Watch, which says the organization spends 89 percent of its budget on programs and only 11 percent on overhead. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is not ranked by Charity Watch.

In addition to donations for Irma, the American Red Cross is also asking for volunteers willing to help in Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Or you can sign up to volunteer on the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster site. The organization urges people not to “self-deploy” to disaster areas. The state-run Volunteer Florida organization also is coordinating volunteer efforts. And the state has called for 1,000 volunteer nurses to help out at shelters. Nurses can email to sign up.

OneBlood, which operates not-for-profit blood centers in Florida, has issued an urgent call for blood donors across the U.S. to fill the need for blood in Florida, where blood donations have been suspended because of the storm.

Here are some other organizations raising funds for those affected by Irma:

  • UNICEF is raising money that will first be spent distributing emergency supplies to affected areas. After the storm, UNICEF will focus on getting children back to school. Charity Watch gave UNICEF an A.
  • The Salvation Army seeks donations for food trucks and disaster relief teams.
  • Crowdfunding website Global Giving is raising $2 million to first “help any first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter.” Following the storm, the fund will “support longer-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted organizations responding to this disaster.” The fund has been vetted, accoridng to the website.
  • Donors also can visit GoFundMe to give money to the Direct Impact Fund, a nonprofit that distributes money to smaller campaigns. GoFundMe also hosts individual crowdfunding campaigns for people and organizations.
  • United Way of Miami-Dade is soliciting donations on behalf of the United Way organizations in all hurricane-affected areas. You can choose to have your relief funds go to Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey.
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Best Friends Animal Society and the South Florida Wildlife Center all are raising money to assist pets and animals affected by the storm.
  • Save the Children emergency teams are responding in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the U.S. to address specific needs of young children. The organization is known for for setting up child friendly spaces in shelters after emergencies to allow kids the opportunity to play and read in a safe environment while parents can coordinate recovery efforts. Charity Watch gave Save the Children an A.

Charity efforts for victims specifically outside mainland U.S. include:

Miami Herald reporter Caitlin Ostroff contributed to this report.