ITHACA, N.Y. — Since Hurricane Harvey first made landfall Friday, it has destroyed some areas along the Texas coastline beyond recognition. In more than 50 counties, lives have been lost, homes flooded and infrastructure wrecked, leaving a coastline rich in Texan and Mexican heritage that will never be the same again.

If you’re living in Tompkins County, there are ways you can responsibly donate to help those in need (they don’t need your used clothing or teddy bears).

In a news release Wednesday, the United Way of Tompkins County stated that the organization has teamed up with the United Ways of Texas and Louisiana to host a fundraiser for disaster relief efforts in areas impacted by the hurricane.

A free concert is happening at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons, where proceeds from T-shirt sales and cups will benefit the Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund.

The local United Way also compiled a list of material items that can be donated to help those in need, which includes:

  • Hand-held snack items (granola bars, peanut butter crackers, protein bars, etc.)
  • Pop-top ready-to-eat items (applesauce or fruit cups)
  • Shelf-stable pantry items (peanut butter, jelly, tuna, chili, beef stew and soup)
  • Bottled water
  • Personal hygiene items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, etc.)
  • Cleaning supplies (bleach, non-bleach, paper towels, etc.)
  • Diapers

To give directly to the cause or for instructions on how to make a donation by via telephone or through mail, visit the United Way website here.

There are other national and Texas-based charities that are helping with the hurricane relief efforts and there are ways to ensure you don’t get scammed while making a donation.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a news release Wednesday, “Unfortunately, there are always some who attempt to take advantage of a tragedy to line their own pockets at the expense of those who are truly in need.”

The attorney general’s office offered up the following precaution tips for those looking to donate (We have edited the tips for length and clarity.) :

  • Take time to research the organization: Make sure you are familiar with the organization, its mission, and its effectiveness before giving. Always ask for information in writing – be wary if an organization will not provide information about charitable programs and finances upon request.
  • Know where your money will go: Find out from the charity what it will do with your money. Review the charity’s financial reports for information about how it spends donations.  Ask specifically how the charity plans to use your donation, including the services and organizations your donation will support. Ask if the charity already has worked in the local area or has relationships with any local relief organizations. Also, ask what the charity plans to do with any excess donations. Avoid charities that make emotional appeals but are vague in answering your questions.
  • Give to established charities: Donate to organizations you are familiar with, or have an experience assisting in disaster relief. Get information about charities that pop up solely in response to the hurricane or those with unfamiliar names.
  • Be cautious with telephone solicitations: Telephone calls asking for donations to charity are often made by a professional fundraiser who is required to register with the Charities Bureau. Remember – you can always hang up. If you choose not to end the call, ask whether the telemarketer is registered and how much of your donation will go to charity and how much the telemarketer is being paid. Many telemarketers receive most of the money they raise. Giving directly to a charity avoids those costs.
  • Check before you text a contribution: Check the charity’s website or call the charity to confirm it has authorized contributions to be made via text message. One thing to keep in mind is that donations via text messaging may not reach the charity until after your phone bill is paid.
  • Before donating to an online giving site: Make sure your contribution to campaigns set up by individuals on sites such as GoFundMe or CrowdRise will go to charity and not to the person raising the funds.  Don’t contribute unless you know that person.
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited spam emails: These formats are usually not associated with legitimate charities.
  • Never give cash: Give your contribution by credit card or a check made payable to the charity.
  • Be careful about personal information: Avoid giving credit card or personal information over the phone or by text message.
  • Report suspicious organizations: If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a scam is taking place, please contact the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau at charities.complaints@ag.ny. gov or 212-416-8401.  The following additional websites contain helpful information to evaluate charities: CharityWatch, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar, Charity Navigator. 

Here is a list of some organizations accepting donations to help with Hurricane relief efforts (There are also pictures of cute animals being rescued because why not?):

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

Greater Houston Community Foundation

Food banks in San Antonio, Corpus Christie, Galveston, Victoria, Pharr, Bryan, Austin, and Houston,

The Texas Diaper Bank

The LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund

Samaritan’s Purse

Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center

Portlight Strategies (accommodating people with disabilities)

Austin Pets Alive!

SPCA of Texas

Austin Wildlife Rescue

Animal Defense League of Texas

This list was compiled using previously published articles from NPR, The San Antonio Current, The Austin American-Statesman, The Houston Chronicle, and The New York Times.  

Featured image: Texas National Guard Soldiers respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. “Texas National Guard” by Staff Sgt. Tim Pruitt of the National Guard, is licensed under CC BY 2.0