Hurricane Sandy -- how you can help

by Julie Snyder

hurricane sandyWhile Hurricane Sandy has passed, many pressing needs remain -- gas, food, shelter, water, clothing, blankets, cleaning supplies, and more.

Those near the hardest hit areas already are actively involved in the recovery efforts:

• Volunteers like those from Harvest Hope Food Bank, S.C. State Guard and AeroBridge who packaged and delivered food and clothing to Eagles nest, New Jersey.

• People like Dennis C. from New Hampshire who volunteered his vacation time to serve as a back-up paramedic.

For those of us further away, here's how you can help out!

Giving through your community

Work through your local church, organization or school: Most communities are holding Sandy donation drives, asking for gently-used clothing and toys, water, non-perishable food items, diapers, warm blankets, cleaning supplies, gloves, masks and batteries.

"I was amazed at how much good clothing we have that we never use. Stuff it in a sack and take them down to the community clothing drive," Joanna says.

Help small local businesses: If you're in an area or know someone in that was hit by the Superstorm, patronize the struggling, small businesses. Neighborhoods like Red Hook in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side in Manhattan could use your support right now.

Helpful tip: Don't send supplies unless specifically requested. In times of crisis, receiving, sorting and transporting your goods to the disaster area may be a problem.

Consider cash: The charities may be able to help more people if you simply send money. Often, agencies collaborate with large retailers to purchase supplies at a significant discount.

Reaching out goes high tech

Hurricane Sandy response differs from other recent disasters in one visible way -- technology. We see the needs of the people and we know which charities are out there in the community making a difference right now.

Text your donation: Wireless customers can make donations directly via text.

Tune into social media: Share it on Facebook, Tweet this media provides an opportunity for people to come together during times of need.

Shopping for a cause

Using registries: Like an organization's Facebook page or follow them on Twitter. You'll be able to find out exactly what's need through those channels.

If you'd rather donate supplies than money, check for an Amazon gift registry. Another idea: Purchase needed items anywhere online and have them shipped directly to centers and shelters in stricken areas.

Part of the proceeds: As you start on your holiday shopping, look for retailers donating a portion of sales for a limited time to help victims and areas hit by the storm, including Ebay merchants, Penfield, The Coveteur, TOMS and Natori.

Organizations out in the streets helping

American Red Cross has provided overnight shelter stays, served meals and snacks and distributed clean-up kits and hygiene kits.

The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties provides access to food, operates a Culinary Training Program, a Kids Café, a Mobile Pantry, and Food Stamp Outreach Program.

Occupy Sandy, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, goes directly into hard-hit neighborhoods, coordinates drives and goes door to door, and checking on people in darkened buildings.

AmeriCares delivers relief supplies like medicine, first aid kits, cleaning products and flashlights to susceptible communities along the East Coast. It has reached out to 100 health clinics, food banks and other agencies and also seeks aid workers ready to help.

Feeding America delivers truckloads of food, water and supplies to communities in need. Its food banks sets up additional emergency distribution sites, as needed.

Hurricane Sandy's wrath didn't just have a human toll. Best Friends Animal Society is providing funds to transport of displaced shelter pets and volunteers to fill in work shifts at shelters, delivering pet food and provide pet supplies.

Not every charity responds in the same way. Some provide temporary shelter while others furnish food, water and medical assistance. Many focus on long term rebuilding efforts. And some simply fund-raise on behalf of other charities.

Charity Navigator is the nonprofit watchdog for the business of charity. For tips on giving without being taken, read through their "Tips For Giving in Times of Crisis."

For all of our families directly affected or who have loved ones in these areas, please know you have our positive thoughts and prayers.

What's organized in your community to raise money or supplies for those in need?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.