Helping Others After a Disaster or Traumatic Event

Reviewed Sep 14, 2016

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Summary

Check for volunteer opportunities at:

  • local churches or synagogues
  • your local government's website

With 24-hour news, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by tales of disaster from every corner of the globe. We want to help, but how can we determine if our money will be used effectively? And while money may be at the top of the “most needed” list, sometimes we want to help in more tangible ways. 

Volunteering in your community

If you want to provide hands-on help in times of disaster, turn to community resources. Start by checking your local government’s website—city, county, or state. Most have up-to-date lists of volunteer opportunities that match your interests and skills with needs. In times of disaster, the local government will let you know how best to help. Typically, they’ll list donations needed and collection sites, personnel needed and skill-sets sought, calls for such specialized equipment as chain saws and four-wheel-drives, and requests for volunteers to transport or temporarily house victims.

Most local churches and synagogues are already networked into the nonprofit community at the national and local level and can respond quickly to emergencies. You don’t have to adhere to a particular belief system to offer to fill a basket with food or pack medical supplies. A number of local businesses also organize collection drives and fundraisers; check with your Chamber of Commerce. Local newspapers and news stations also list ways for people to help. 

Several good Internet sites match volunteers with specific needs. They’re easy to use: type in your zip code and select the miles you’re willing to travel as well as areas of interest, and the program provides a list of relevant opportunities. Or you can search via location—local, national, or international. Computer-oriented tasks you can do from home are also listed. Check out NetworkForGood.com, volunteer.gov, and VolunteerMatch.org.

Ways to volunteer locally to help disaster victims around the globe:

  • Collect requested items, usually nonperishable food, clothing, blankets, and school and medical supplies; assemble packages; deliver items to a distribution center.
  • Offer to house displaced persons or pets.
  • Give blood.
  • Organize a fundraiser: a 5k, a yard sale, a lemonade stand or a party (no reason not to have fun while serving a good cause).
  • Help match missing pets with families via computer searches; check with the Humane Society of the United States (www.humanesociety.org/).
  • Volunteer in advance with a local charitable organization or your community’s emergency-response team.  

Guidelines for giving

First and foremost, determine if the organization is reputable. Reputable organizations will have easily accessible information regarding contacts, their mission, and how their funds are spent—how much goes directly to the cause versus administrative overhead. 

Start by visiting an organization’s website, then cross-check that organization with a charity watchdog, which provides objective information on an organization’s worthiness or unworthiness. The National Crime Prevention Council suggests CharityWatch.org, www.bbb.org/us/charity/, Guidestar.org, and CharityChoices.com

An organization must have tax-exempt status with the IRS for your donation to be deductible. Research the IRS online (irs.gov) list of tax-exempt organizations for the most up-to-date information. The site also lists types of charities that don’t qualify, as well as charities that have been suspended.

Additional tips:

  • Don’t give to a charity you have never heard of.
  • Never feel rushed to give on the spot—ask for the information to be sent to you.
  • Make sure you have full contact information—address, phone number.
  • Write checks or use a credit card rather than give cash.
  • Only give out a credit card if you’re 100 percent sure the charity is legitimate.
  • Don’t give your Social Security number.
  • Keep records of all donations.
  • Give directly to the charity instead of to an intermediary organization.
  • Stay away from any organizations that use chain letters or high-pressure or overly emotional appeals, promise special treatment by the police or fire departments or have names that sound like other well-known charities but are slightly different.
  • When giving on the Internet, make sure the site uses security-related technology before you give personal or financial information; you should see an unbroken key or lock symbol in the corner and/or the letters “https:” (as opposed to “http:”) before the URL address.  

To report a fraud

  • Contact your local law enforcement agency.
  • Contact your local state attorney general’s office; a list can be found at the National Association of Attorneys General (naag.org).
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/us/charity/) or with one of the other charity watchdog organizations listed above.  

Where the money is needed most

It’s hard to know where to direct your dollars, but a good rule is to follow your heart. If children and families are your first priority, give to organizations that specialize in that area. If your expertise is in housing, medicine, animals, or rescue operations, follow that lead. If you’re already a member of an organization, give to its disaster-related drive. When in doubt, give to big organizations such as the American Red Cross or the United Way. Some charities give you the option of selecting where you’d like your money to go, or you can let them determine where the money is needed most.

Resources

American Red Cross
www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer#step1

Community Emergency Response Teams
www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams

Corporation for National & Community Service
www.nationalservice.gov

Habitat for Humanity
www.habitat.org

United Way
www.unitedway.org

By Amy Fries

Summary

Check for volunteer opportunities at:

  • local churches or synagogues
  • your local government's website

With 24-hour news, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by tales of disaster from every corner of the globe. We want to help, but how can we determine if our money will be used effectively? And while money may be at the top of the “most needed” list, sometimes we want to help in more tangible ways. 

Volunteering in your community

If you want to provide hands-on help in times of disaster, turn to community resources. Start by checking your local government’s website—city, county, or state. Most have up-to-date lists of volunteer opportunities that match your interests and skills with needs. In times of disaster, the local government will let you know how best to help. Typically, they’ll list donations needed and collection sites, personnel needed and skill-sets sought, calls for such specialized equipment as chain saws and four-wheel-drives, and requests for volunteers to transport or temporarily house victims.

Most local churches and synagogues are already networked into the nonprofit community at the national and local level and can respond quickly to emergencies. You don’t have to adhere to a particular belief system to offer to fill a basket with food or pack medical supplies. A number of local businesses also organize collection drives and fundraisers; check with your Chamber of Commerce. Local newspapers and news stations also list ways for people to help. 

Several good Internet sites match volunteers with specific needs. They’re easy to use: type in your zip code and select the miles you’re willing to travel as well as areas of interest, and the program provides a list of relevant opportunities. Or you can search via location—local, national, or international. Computer-oriented tasks you can do from home are also listed. Check out NetworkForGood.com, volunteer.gov, and VolunteerMatch.org.

Ways to volunteer locally to help disaster victims around the globe:

  • Collect requested items, usually nonperishable food, clothing, blankets, and school and medical supplies; assemble packages; deliver items to a distribution center.
  • Offer to house displaced persons or pets.
  • Give blood.
  • Organize a fundraiser: a 5k, a yard sale, a lemonade stand or a party (no reason not to have fun while serving a good cause).
  • Help match missing pets with families via computer searches; check with the Humane Society of the United States (www.humanesociety.org/).
  • Volunteer in advance with a local charitable organization or your community’s emergency-response team.  

Guidelines for giving

First and foremost, determine if the organization is reputable. Reputable organizations will have easily accessible information regarding contacts, their mission, and how their funds are spent—how much goes directly to the cause versus administrative overhead. 

Start by visiting an organization’s website, then cross-check that organization with a charity watchdog, which provides objective information on an organization’s worthiness or unworthiness. The National Crime Prevention Council suggests CharityWatch.org, www.bbb.org/us/charity/, Guidestar.org, and CharityChoices.com

An organization must have tax-exempt status with the IRS for your donation to be deductible. Research the IRS online (irs.gov) list of tax-exempt organizations for the most up-to-date information. The site also lists types of charities that don’t qualify, as well as charities that have been suspended.

Additional tips:

  • Don’t give to a charity you have never heard of.
  • Never feel rushed to give on the spot—ask for the information to be sent to you.
  • Make sure you have full contact information—address, phone number.
  • Write checks or use a credit card rather than give cash.
  • Only give out a credit card if you’re 100 percent sure the charity is legitimate.
  • Don’t give your Social Security number.
  • Keep records of all donations.
  • Give directly to the charity instead of to an intermediary organization.
  • Stay away from any organizations that use chain letters or high-pressure or overly emotional appeals, promise special treatment by the police or fire departments or have names that sound like other well-known charities but are slightly different.
  • When giving on the Internet, make sure the site uses security-related technology before you give personal or financial information; you should see an unbroken key or lock symbol in the corner and/or the letters “https:” (as opposed to “http:”) before the URL address.  

To report a fraud

  • Contact your local law enforcement agency.
  • Contact your local state attorney general’s office; a list can be found at the National Association of Attorneys General (naag.org).
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/us/charity/) or with one of the other charity watchdog organizations listed above.  

Where the money is needed most

It’s hard to know where to direct your dollars, but a good rule is to follow your heart. If children and families are your first priority, give to organizations that specialize in that area. If your expertise is in housing, medicine, animals, or rescue operations, follow that lead. If you’re already a member of an organization, give to its disaster-related drive. When in doubt, give to big organizations such as the American Red Cross or the United Way. Some charities give you the option of selecting where you’d like your money to go, or you can let them determine where the money is needed most.

Resources

American Red Cross
www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer#step1

Community Emergency Response Teams
www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams

Corporation for National & Community Service
www.nationalservice.gov

Habitat for Humanity
www.habitat.org

United Way
www.unitedway.org

By Amy Fries

Summary

Check for volunteer opportunities at:

  • local churches or synagogues
  • your local government's website

With 24-hour news, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by tales of disaster from every corner of the globe. We want to help, but how can we determine if our money will be used effectively? And while money may be at the top of the “most needed” list, sometimes we want to help in more tangible ways. 

Volunteering in your community

If you want to provide hands-on help in times of disaster, turn to community resources. Start by checking your local government’s website—city, county, or state. Most have up-to-date lists of volunteer opportunities that match your interests and skills with needs. In times of disaster, the local government will let you know how best to help. Typically, they’ll list donations needed and collection sites, personnel needed and skill-sets sought, calls for such specialized equipment as chain saws and four-wheel-drives, and requests for volunteers to transport or temporarily house victims.

Most local churches and synagogues are already networked into the nonprofit community at the national and local level and can respond quickly to emergencies. You don’t have to adhere to a particular belief system to offer to fill a basket with food or pack medical supplies. A number of local businesses also organize collection drives and fundraisers; check with your Chamber of Commerce. Local newspapers and news stations also list ways for people to help. 

Several good Internet sites match volunteers with specific needs. They’re easy to use: type in your zip code and select the miles you’re willing to travel as well as areas of interest, and the program provides a list of relevant opportunities. Or you can search via location—local, national, or international. Computer-oriented tasks you can do from home are also listed. Check out NetworkForGood.com, volunteer.gov, and VolunteerMatch.org.

Ways to volunteer locally to help disaster victims around the globe:

  • Collect requested items, usually nonperishable food, clothing, blankets, and school and medical supplies; assemble packages; deliver items to a distribution center.
  • Offer to house displaced persons or pets.
  • Give blood.
  • Organize a fundraiser: a 5k, a yard sale, a lemonade stand or a party (no reason not to have fun while serving a good cause).
  • Help match missing pets with families via computer searches; check with the Humane Society of the United States (www.humanesociety.org/).
  • Volunteer in advance with a local charitable organization or your community’s emergency-response team.  

Guidelines for giving

First and foremost, determine if the organization is reputable. Reputable organizations will have easily accessible information regarding contacts, their mission, and how their funds are spent—how much goes directly to the cause versus administrative overhead. 

Start by visiting an organization’s website, then cross-check that organization with a charity watchdog, which provides objective information on an organization’s worthiness or unworthiness. The National Crime Prevention Council suggests CharityWatch.org, www.bbb.org/us/charity/, Guidestar.org, and CharityChoices.com

An organization must have tax-exempt status with the IRS for your donation to be deductible. Research the IRS online (irs.gov) list of tax-exempt organizations for the most up-to-date information. The site also lists types of charities that don’t qualify, as well as charities that have been suspended.

Additional tips:

  • Don’t give to a charity you have never heard of.
  • Never feel rushed to give on the spot—ask for the information to be sent to you.
  • Make sure you have full contact information—address, phone number.
  • Write checks or use a credit card rather than give cash.
  • Only give out a credit card if you’re 100 percent sure the charity is legitimate.
  • Don’t give your Social Security number.
  • Keep records of all donations.
  • Give directly to the charity instead of to an intermediary organization.
  • Stay away from any organizations that use chain letters or high-pressure or overly emotional appeals, promise special treatment by the police or fire departments or have names that sound like other well-known charities but are slightly different.
  • When giving on the Internet, make sure the site uses security-related technology before you give personal or financial information; you should see an unbroken key or lock symbol in the corner and/or the letters “https:” (as opposed to “http:”) before the URL address.  

To report a fraud

  • Contact your local law enforcement agency.
  • Contact your local state attorney general’s office; a list can be found at the National Association of Attorneys General (naag.org).
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/us/charity/) or with one of the other charity watchdog organizations listed above.  

Where the money is needed most

It’s hard to know where to direct your dollars, but a good rule is to follow your heart. If children and families are your first priority, give to organizations that specialize in that area. If your expertise is in housing, medicine, animals, or rescue operations, follow that lead. If you’re already a member of an organization, give to its disaster-related drive. When in doubt, give to big organizations such as the American Red Cross or the United Way. Some charities give you the option of selecting where you’d like your money to go, or you can let them determine where the money is needed most.

Resources

American Red Cross
www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer#step1

Community Emergency Response Teams
www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams

Corporation for National & Community Service
www.nationalservice.gov

Habitat for Humanity
www.habitat.org

United Way
www.unitedway.org

By Amy Fries

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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