As Haitians begin burying their dead, an on-going relief effort is working to support the living.
An estimated 45,000-50,000 people died in last Tuesday's devastating quake while another 3 million have been affected and half the buildings in the capital and nearby areas have been destroyed.
We can help. And we should.
While pennies are precious now as our community continues to struggle with the collapse of the housing market, anything we can spare can help repair the devastation that President Obama has called "extraordinary" in a country already beset by poverty.
A number of local organizations and businesses are collecting donations, and they say the outpouring of support has been great.
American Red Cross.
Locally, Haitian-American Red Cross volunteers are leading donation drives to raise money for the International Response Fund. People can donate to the American Red Cross by stopping by the Fort Myers office at 6310 Techster Blvd., Suite 7 in Fort Myers.
Also, an unrestricted donation to the International Response Fund can be made at: www.redcross.org or by calling (800) RED-CROSS (733-2767). Through an effort backed by the U.S. State Department, texting "HAITI" to 90999 sends a $10 donation to the American Red Cross.
The Salvation Army
To donate through The Salvation Army, visit online at: salvationarmyusa.org or stop by one of two drop-off locations here in Lee County. Note on the check that it is for the Haiti Earthquake Relief so funds go toward the effort.
The drop-off locations for The Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties are at 10291 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, and 2400 Edison Ave., Fort Myers.
Publix customers can donate any amount by adding it to their grocery total when checking out.
Sweetbay shoppers also can make a cash donation at the register, which the company will match up to $50,000.
Neighbors To The Rescue
Gov. Charlie Crist activated "Neighbors To The Rescue" this week through the Florida Disaster Recovery Fund. The fund was created to provide disaster relief in 2005 following Hurricane Wilma. To contribute to "Neighbors to the Rescue" go to www.FLADisasterRecoveryFund.org or call 1-800-825-3786.
There are a number of other legitimate charities and organizations collecting funds as well - and some that are not.
Officials urge the kindhearted to take care that their money goes where intended.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warns us to beware of con artists and scammers who may try to take advantage of a giver's good intentions by creating fake charities.
"E-mails and Web sites requesting donations may appear legitimate, but could be a ploy to gain personal information and consumers are encouraged to verify the validity of charitable organizations before making any donations," officials said in a release issued last week.
The agency provided the following tips list to help identify and avoid fraudulent charities:
Always make sure a charity is registered before donating, and check on how a charity spends its money. Consumers have the right to ask for an organization's financial report and its federal tax identification number, which is necessary to claim contributions as tax deductions.
Do not judge an organization based on an impressive sounding name. Find out what it actually does. Additionally, be wary of emotional appeals and organizations that have only vague plans for spending the funds they collect.
Never give cash. Write a check payable only to an organization, not an individual. Be wary of organizations that offer to send a "runner" to pick up donations. Reputable charities are willing to wait for contributions.
Only donate to well-known organizations, which include the American Red Cross, United Way and the Salvation Army.
Determine whether a particular organization is registered at (800) HELP-FLA (435-7352) or online at www.800helpfla.com by using the "Gift Givers Guide."
Let's give what we can, but wisely.
- Reporter editorial