This week, the nation has watched as Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston and on the neighboring communities. Thousands of people have been misplaced. Homes and businesses have been destroyed, and the death toll continues to rise. Search and rescue teams from several states, including Missouri, have been deployed to help.

In order to make sure volunteer and donation efforts are the most beneficial for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, FEMA has put together a list of the most effective ways to help. FEMA discourages donations of unsolicited goods such as used clothing, household items, medicine, or perishable food at this time. Instead, FEMA says cash donations to trusted, reputable, voluntary, or charitable organization better helps address urgently developing needs. Volunteer agencies and faith-based organizations have more flexibility with cash in hand to buy resources needed immediately. Cash also helps pump money back into the local economy helping businesses recover faster. Blood donations are also needed (http://www.redcross.org/give-blood).

FEMA suggests going to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) website for more volunteer options. Also, the Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Texas VOAD) has a list of vetted disaster relief organizations providing services to survivors. FEMA wants to remind people not to self-deploy to personally volunteer in the disaster areas. Potential volunteers should instead team up with a charitable organization and one already in Texas to help the victims.

Patience is key in situations like this. We want to make sure our efforts are safe and that we are meeting the actual needs of the victims. Volunteer efforts won’t end this week. The community will need help for months and years after these waters recede. The recovery period is just now beginning. As we watch this storm move down the Gulf Coast with additional impact headed toward Louisiana, we will keep those victims and their families in our prayers as well.

Also, these are some tips from the AG’s office in case any constituents start hearing about scams in response to the hurricane.

TIPS TO PROTECT AGAINST FAKE CHARITIES:
– Do your research before giving.

– Only donate to charities you trust, be wary of charities that seem to pop up after a disaster has occurred. Be leery of crowdfunding sites that allow anyone to ask for money.

– Avoid unsolicited solicitations by email, pop-up messages, social media ads, phone and individuals that go door-to-door.

– Do not click on any links you receive in emails or on social media. Go directly to the charity’s webpage.

– Ask questions. Find out who they work for, what percentage of the donation goes to the charity. If your questions are not answered, that is a red flag.

– Don’t give any of your personal information to charities you do not trust. Never give your personal information over the phone.

– Never send cash. There is no guarantee is will make it to the charity

To report suspected charity fraud, please contact the Attorney General Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-392-8222 or www.ago.mo.gov.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need anything else.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!