The weather conditions that created Hurricane Harvey and led to widespread flooding in Texas have resulted in what has been called a 1,000-year flood. This is expected to be the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, exceeding the total economic impact of Katrina and Sandy combined.

Massive relief efforts are underway, first to rescue those trapped in the floodwaters and then to provide temporary shelter, food and clothing for the victims. Once this first phase is past the years of rebuilding will begin. Help will continue to be needed far into the future.

There are numerous ways we can help, from supporting known and trusted local groups like the Randolph Baptist Association, which is leaving today for Texas with a load of canned goods, bottled water and diapers donated by local people, to any number or reputable national organizations that already are working in the affected areas.

Unfortunately, as with any disaster, there will be those who seek to profit from the situation. This may take the form of price gouging--charging unreasonably high prices for needed goods and services in the area affected. Or it may take the form of charitable giving scams that pop up to request donations that never make it to the disaster victims.

Protecting yourself from such scams comes down to one simple rule: Do not respond to requests for charitable donations following a natural disaster from organizations or individuals with whom you are not familiar. Especially do not provide your credit or check card number, bank account number or any personal information in response to such solicitations.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, even if charities that appear suddenly after disasters are legitimate and sincerely want to help, they are unlikely to have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected area or people.

Continue to contribute to known organizations like the Randolph Baptist Association and to reputable national organizations that are doing the hard work on the ground.

Following is a list of a few of them working right now in the areas impacted by Harvey. All can be found online with instructions about how you can donate to the work they are doing. By doing so we all can make a difference.

  • The American Red Cross is accepting donations. You can also text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.
  • Donations to the Salvation Army can be made online, by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769) or texting STORM to 51555.
  • All Hands Volunteers will be working on damaged homes and removing debris.
  • AmeriCares takes medicine and supplies to survivors.
  • Catholic Charities provides food, clothing, shelter and support services to those from all religious backgrounds.
  • Matthew 25: Ministries is distributing personal care kits, cleaning products, first aid and safety kits, diapers, paper products and tarps.
  • Direct Relief is shipping medicine and medical supplies to Texas, and has made its medical inventory of more than $100 million available for the Harvey relief effort.
  • Save the Children is delivering baby supplies, including cribs and strollers, and setting up child-friendly spaces in shelters.
  • Samaritan's Purse volunteer teams are helping homeowners by cutting trees and adding tarps to roofs, among other tasks.
  • SBP, a national disaster recovery nonprofit, will conduct damage assessment and help residents rebuild.

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