How you can make sure your donations help Harvey victims

As Houston and areas hit by Hurricane Harvey shift from recovery to rebuilding, here are some ways that you can help and make sure your donations go to those in need.

WASHINGTON — The victims of Hurricane Harvey still have a long road in front of them. That’s not surprising, given the devastation.

Things have now shifted from a recovery mission into a rebuilding phase, and officials say the best way you can help is by donating money.

But tragedy often brings out the scammers.

So how can you find organizations that are trustworthy?

Kathleen Koch is the founder of Leaders Link, an organization that helps local leaders share disaster lessons so their communities are better prepared and recover more quickly.

She says we know about the big organizations people donate to following a major disaster, but there are smaller organizations that help on the ground in the smaller towns and communities which were hard-hit by Harvey.

But finding them will take a little work, she says. She suggests going to the website of a local television station, radio station or newspaper on the Texas coast.

“They’ve done articles on it and they’ve done the homework for you really,” Koch said. “So they’ll say, ‘Hey take a look at this organization, give to the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, to the Food Bank of Corpus Christi, to the San Antonio Humane Society.”

Koch says you can also look for community foundations.

“These are groups that already exist that pool charitable donations to help worthy causes.”

Specifically, she recommends the Coastal Bend Community Foundation.

Their website actually has two Harvey funds set up that you can donate to. One is the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group Recovery Fund and the other is the Mayor’s Hurricane Harvey Fund which was set up by the mayor of Corpus Christi, Joe McComb. His fund will help rebuild community infrastructure and help small local towns.

Koch also suggests going to individual websites of small towns in Texas that have been hard hit such as Rockport, Bayside and Aransas Pass.

She says sometimes you can get more information from their Facebook pages.

“I went to the Aransas Pass (Police Department) Facebook page and found out they have a gofundme campaign going on,” she said.

According to Koch, right now, the biggest need that a lot of towns have is volunteers.

“They need boots on the ground,” she said. “I got a really poignant email yesterday from the town of Stafford (located in the southwest part of Houston) and their emergency manager said most people don’t have the money to rebuild in their checking accounts. We need boots on the ground reaching out in person, going community to community, door to door to help.”

She says the emergency manager said that many people were not in a flood zone, so they don’t have insurance.

She also pointed out volunteer organizations such as “All Hands Volunteers” and the Cajun Army.

“They pre-vet the people whose homes you’re going to work on,” she said. “They make sure they’re the low income, the needy, senior citizens, folks who can’t help themselves. They provide you with tools.”

Koch says the Cajun Army might even give you a place to stay while you volunteer, which is very important in a disaster zone.

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