How to Help Katrina's Survivors

Hurricane Katrina and the floods and destruction that followed have sparked concern far and wide. Here is how you can help.

Cash Counts

You may have canned goods, toiletries, and clothes to spare, but don't overlook the power of cash.

"Cash donations are especially helpful to victims," says Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, in a news release earlier this week.

"They allow volunteer agencies to issue cash vouchers to victims so they can meet their needs." Cash donations also allow agencies to avoid the labor-intensive need to store, sort, pack, and distribute donated goods. Donated money prevents, too, the prohibitive cost of air or sea transportation that donated goods require," Brown continues.

What About Volunteers?

If you've got skills that might be of help, contacting a relief agency might be your best bet.

"We're grateful for the outpouring of support already," says Brown. "But it's important that volunteer response is coordinated by the professionals who can direct volunteers with the appropriate skills to the hardest-hit areas where they are needed most. Self-dispatched volunteers and especially sightseers can put themselves and others in harm's way and hamper rescue efforts."

Organizations to Consider

Many organizations are working hard to bring relief to the storm's victims. Here are a few suggested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

To donate cash:

—American Red Cross: (800) HELP NOW (435-7669) English; (800) 257-7575 Spanish

—Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA),

—Operation Blessing (800) 436-6348

—America's Second Harvest (800) 344-8070

To donate cash or volunteer:

—Adventist Community Services (800) 381-7171

—Catholic Charities, USA (703) 549-1390

—Christian Disaster Response (941) 956-5183 or (941) 551-9554

—Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (800) 848-5818

—Church World Service (800) 297-1516

—Convoy of Hope (417) 823-8998

—Lutheran Disaster Response (800) 638-3522

—Mennonite Disaster Service (717) 859-2210

—Nazarene Disaster Response (888) 256-5886

—Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (800) 872-3283

—Salvation Army (800) SAL-ARMY (725-2769)

—Southern Baptist Convention — Disaster Relief (800) 462-8657, ext. 6133

—United Methodist Committee on Relief (800) 554-8583

Animal-Related Charities

Pets and other animals were also affected by the hurricane. Groups addressing those needs include:

Humane Society of the U.S.

Noah's Wish

Be an Informed Giver

To learn about charities before making a donation, try visiting Charity Navigator.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: News release, Federal Emergency Management Agency. American Red Cross. The Salvation Army National Headquarters. America's Second Harvest. Habitat for Humanity. Catholic Charities USA. United Methodist Committee on Relief. Humane Society of the U.S. Noah's Wish.