A TRADITION OF LABOR DAY GIVING

It’s Labor Day – the traditional beginning to so many rites of fall.    Besides football and school (or is that school and football?) Labor Day also used to be the home of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon hosted by multi-talented comedian/actor/director Jerry Lewis from 1966 to 2010.  For many years, the show originated from Las Vegas bouyed by over a hundred local affiliate stations across the nation that did their own cutaways and fund raising during the Telethon.

Lewis died at the age of 91 a few weeks ago, and the Telethon preceded him in 2014 – but not before raising nearly three billion dollars for MDA research and work over its lifespan.

Working the Telethons on a local affilate basis was a grueling 21 and a half hour stretch, plus the time to set up the location before hand and tear it down afterward.  On the national level, it must have been titanic.

That’s what we’re facing now on a national level with picking up the pieces from Hurricane Harvey’s visit to south east Texas.  This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.    Work on the next year’s Telethon began the day after the current one had ended.  Work on Harvey relief was already underway while it was still raining.

There are many ways to help.  The New York Times listed these:

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund of Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, which is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

To help animals suffering from the disaster, visit the Houston Humane Society or the San Antonio Humane Society. The Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has set up an animal emergency response hotline (713-861-3010) and is accepting donations on its website.

The United Way of Greater Houston flood relief fund will be used to help with immediate needs as well as long-term services like minor home repair. Visit their website to donate or text UWFLOOD to 41444.

For more options, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends checking with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for a list of trusted disaster-relief organizations in Texas.

The American Red Cross is accepting donations on its website. You can also text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.

AmeriCares takes medicine and supplies to survivors.

Direct Relief is shipping medicine and medical supplies to Texas, and has made its entire medical inventory of more than $100 million available for the Harvey relief effort.

Donations to the Salvation Army can be made online, by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769) or texting STORM to 51555.

Save the Children is delivering baby supplies, including cribs and strollers, and setting up child-friendly spaces in shelters.

Airbnb is waiving service fees for those affected by the disaster and checking in between Aug. 23 and Sept. 25, and can guide users in creating a listing where their home is offered to victims free.

GoFundMe has created a page with all of its Harvey-related campaigns, including one started by the country singer Chris Young, who donated $100,000, and another created by the president and chief executive of the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

YouCaring has a fund-raising page set up by J. J. Watt of the Houston Texans with a goal of $10 million. By 9:30 p.m. Wednesday it had raised more than $7 million.

GlobalGiving’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund supports local organizations by helping to “meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products and shelter.” It will also assist with longer-term recovery efforts.

While an event like Harvey brings out the best in almost all of us, there are a few who are out there willing to make a buck off of other’s tragedy.  Before giving money to an organization, do your research.

Charity Navigator, which identifies worthy charities, has a handy list of organizations that are responding in the aftermath of the storm. Their extensive database provides a good starting place to research nonprofits.

The Internal Revenue Service can also help you investigate an organization. Its search tool reveals whether or not an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

For advice on avoiding fraudsters, read Charity Navigator’s post on how to protect yourself, and check out these tips from the Federal Trade Commission.

“Be wary of charities that spring up too suddenly in response to current events and natural disasters,” the F.T.C. website says. “Even if they are legitimate, they probably don’t have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected area or people.”

GoFundMe, the source of many new fund-raisers that popped up after Harvey, offers a way for donors and campaign organizers to communicate directly.

Bobby Whithorne, a spokesman for GoFundMe, said in an email that if a specific campaign is raising questions, “report the campaign directly to GoFundMe by clicking ‘Report Campaign’ on the GoFundMe campaign page or, report your concerns to the state Consumer Protection Hotline.”

There’s no doubt Texas has a long, tough slog ahead.

There’s equally no doubt they’ll make it to the other side.

Thanks to you for all your help.

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