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How You Can Help Hurricane Irene Victims

Two Tampa Bay area agencies are accepting disaster relief donations.

As what’s left of Hurricane Irene continues to batter the Northeast, Largo residents may be wondering what they can do to help out.

At this point, cash donations can do the most good, said Janet McGuire, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter.

“Donate to the disaster relief (fund),” she said.

While residents can designate their donations for a specific event, such as Hurricane Irene, she advises against this.

“People don’t understand” if they donate to a specific disaster, the money is locked in for that disaster. That means if something else happens – even in the exact same area a hurricane impacted – the money collected earlier could not be used to assist victims.

“We’ve had a lot of disasters this year,” she pointed out.

McGuire was speaking from Rhode Island where she had been mobilized to help after the storm. The Red Cross sent more than 80 mobile feeding vehicles and trucks into North Carolina earlier this week to provide immediate assistance after the storm.

Hurricane Irene slammed into North Carolina yesterday and has been making its way up the East Coast ever since, causing damage and flooding all along the way. The storm has been blamed for 11 deaths and it is reported that 4.5 million people are without power, according to the Huffington Post.

From an emergency response standpoint, McGuire said Irene, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, is going to take some time to recover from.

“(It’s going to be) a very long process,” she said. “It’s not just going to be a wind event. There’s a lot of flooding. We’re talking millions of dollars in damage and people out of their homes for weeks.”

McGuire said more than 27,000 people were in shelters throughout the storm-effected area.

The Red Cross isn’t the only agency mobilized in the Northeast to help victims. The Florida Salvation Army also sent seven mobile canteens into North Carolina to provide post-storm assistance.

“The biggest way people locally can help with the (storm recovery) is to donate funds,” said Dulcinea Cuellar, director of public relations for the Salvation Army of Florida. “When people give monetarily it really helps the Salvation Army pump money back into the local economy. Those funds can be used immediately to help the Salvation Army help others in need.”

Here’s how you can help:

To Donate to the Red Cross

The Red Cross offers a number of different ways people can make financial donations. They include:

  • Online – Just visit redcross.org
  • By phone – Call 1-800-733-2767
  • By text – Text Redcross to 90999 to donate $10, which will be charged to your cell phone account
  • By mail – Send checks made out to the American Red Cross to P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

Volunteers are also needed, McGuire said. Information is available on the agency’s website.

To Donate to the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army also provides donors a number of ways to help:

  • Online – salvationarmyusa.org
  • By phone – 1-800-725-2769
  • By text – Text the word Storm to 80888 to make a donation
  • By mail – Send checks made out to The Salvation Army Disaster Relief, PO BOX 1959 Atlanta, GA 30301. Designate “2011 Hurricane Season” on all checks.     

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