Hurricane Maria roared across Puerto Rico on September 20, leaving nearly the entire island without power and more than half the population without water.
Flights off the island are hard to come by and ports are beginning to open to allow relief items to arrive on the hard-hit island.
Residents in our area are finding it hard to reach loved ones as communication has also been knocked out or limited since the storm.
Many people to want to help. But there are better -- and worse -- ways to give, and even some scams out there.
Here's what you need to know:
Q: What if I need to reach family and friends in Puerto Rico to see if they need help?
A: The Puerto Rican government suggests anyone looking for family or friends call the Federal Affairs Administration at 202-800-3133. You can also visit the American Red Cross' online Safe and Well Registry to search its list of people who have registered as safe. Use the Red Cross app to register and check for loved ones, as well.
The City of Philadelphia also has published a new page on its website of resources to help people find help and share information.
Q: Where can I donate?
A: First, a few steps you should take in order to find the right organization for you to donate to:
- Who have you heard about? Donate to organizations you know are reliable and trustworthy.
- Double check the charity is real. You can go to websites such as CharityCheck, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar to make sure your donation goes to the right place.
- Designate where you want the money to go. Some organizations allow you to pick where you want the donation to go, such as the Earthquake Efforts in Mexico or Hurricane Relief in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Be aware of the scams. GoFundMe pages and other individually-run funds are less trustworthy, so only give to who you trust. If you are texting to donate, confirm the number with organization on their website or by calling.
Q: What organization could I give to?
A: The following are examples of organizations that are known for their relief services and are currently working on site in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Mexico:
A: Each situation is different, but the overarching necessity is money. By sending money, the organizations can use those fund in any way they see necessary: food, water, shelters, restoring comunication and infrastructure, etc.
Q: Can I still send items such as clothes, water bottles, or blankets?
A: If you would like to send a non-monetary donation, please check with the organization. Many times, these items go to waste because they are not needed at the time of arrival. If items are needed, they will be on the organization's website. You can also call to find out what to send and where to send it.