How To Really Help Hurricane Harvey Victims (And Be Careful Where You Donate) – Commentary

Hurricane Hravey

UPDATED, 10:38 AM: If you want to help victims and survivors of Hurricane Harvey, don’t write checks without asking questions. Ask any charity just what exactly will be done with your donation. Ask specifically what percentage of your dollar actually will go to victims directly. Better yet, ask victims what do they need? And give directly as often as you can.

Having dealt and researched this topic for many years, there are a number of places which are giving directly to victims: Food banks are one very needed way, but also helping with direct financial aid to Hurricane Harvey victims is the Cantor Fitzerland Relief Fund, which is highly reputable and has a depth of experience in getting funds directly to victims. They have opened a fund to give 100% of what they collect in direct financial aid to Hurricane victims.

Begun by the company’s CEO Howard Lutnick in 2001, whose brother died at the company on 9/11, the fund has raised and distributed hundreds of millions directly to victims of natural disasters and emergencies as well as wounded members America’s military. This fund is safe and transparent.

The big-hearted JJ Watt, a former Wisconsin Badger turned NFL Superstar, is bound and determined to make sure victims are helped directly as well here. Deadline confirmed that producer/activist Michael Skolnik set up a Go Fund Me to directly help the three-year old girl named Jordyn Grace who was found clinging to her heroic mother Colette Sulcer, a nurse who drowned while saving her little one.

In this instance in Houston, Salvation Army was also on the ground — just as they were during 9/11 — handing out dry clothes and water to first responders and victims.

As soon as a tragedy occurs, well-meaning and generous people like Kevin Hart and corporations like Disney and Hearst open their wallets and give. Millions of dollars pour into national organizations like the Red Cross and/or the United Way. But after natural disasters, the best places to give that will actually help victims directly are food banks, or companies who will provide fuel sources, and also to animal rescue groups who are on the ground. So please research.

After almost every mass shooting, after the Joplin, MO tornado, after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, big organizations like Red Cross and United Way swoop in and start soliciting and collecting money from Americans and those around the globe, and people give because of the charities’ “brand.” But these two non-profits have very bad track records over years and years after tragedies and disasters. Time and time again, they are criticized afterwards for not actually helping victims. These are not isolated incidents — there is a pattern of behavior from these big charities from Columbine through to Hurricane Sandy and beyond.

This is something I know about. I have seen this first-hand and have worked with victims across this country. This happens both after natural disasters and mass shootings where generous people feel compelled to give. Although neither big charities like the United Way and Red Cross are doing anything illegal, the problem is that they are community-based funds, not a victim comp-based fund.

After a national tragedy or natural disaster, the federal government gives out millions in grants to help municipalities while often the victims who are directly impacted continue to struggle despite the millions in donations that pour into these nonprofits.

One of the fathers who led the fight against Giving First/Community First to get donations out of their hands to help the victims of the Aurora shooting, then had to face another disaster when his mother’s home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy later that same year. Red Cross came in and did nothing of substance to help. Volunteers, in one instance, brought a roll of paper towels, a broom and a dustpan to another victim standing in water up to her waist.

After mass shootings in Columbine, Chardon, Ohio, and others like Newtown, United Way swooped in and started soliciting and collecting donations. United Way set up what it called a “Healing Fund” in Columbine which was quickly nicknamed “Stealing Fund” by the victims. Families of the deceased in Columbine got only 1% each of the millions collected; those catastrophically injured received only 3%.

In Chardon, Ohio, United Way set up another “Healing Fund” then forced grieving mothers into court who were asking for funds collected from generous donors who thought it was going to the victims’ families in the first place. Don’t believe it? Here’s the video. When a mother asked for help, United Way told her to apply for welfare. Don’t believe it? Here’s the video. Grieving mothers had no choice but to go to court.

Charitable giving can be changed by giving the millions directly to victims themselves if the big non-profit organizations so desire by changing their legally-binding mission statements. The victim base in a natural disaster is huge, but this kind of victim comp giving has been done before with the BP oil spill.

Families of mass shootings have already changed it for future mass shooting victims, whereby 100% of every penny donated goes directly to victims in cash payments. Why cash payments? Because each victim, each family is different and only they know what they need. The same could happen for victims of natural disasters.

Right now across social media, people are wising up to this. They are issuing warnings to those who wish to give to the “brand” charities who already are sitting on millions and millions of dollars with no intention of writing checks to victims directly.

I can’t stress enough: Food banks, those providing fuel sources and animal rescue orgs who are on the ground saving pets are the way to help victims directly. If you have questions, please check with Charity Navigator which looks at each individual charity and rates them on effectiveness.

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