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Via: CharlotteObserver.com

Organizations across the Charlotte metro region are rallying to help the victims of Tuesday’s deadly earthquake in Haiti.

Among the first to respond was Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse, the relief agency headed by the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham.

The local American Red Cross chapters in the Carolinas also are providing help, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has staff members headed to Haiti.

At the same time, authorities are warning the public to be careful about possible scam artists who might take advantage of the public’s interest in helping.

For the most part, say relief agency officials, the big need is for financial support. Organizations say volunteer help is not feasible, because it is too difficult to get people into Haiti. In addition, it is too early for rebuilding and other recovery work.

Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association also are asking for prayers from the public.

Here is a look at local organizations’ efforts and needs:

Samaritan’s Purse

A highly trained team of disaster experts began mobilizing overnight and is now headed to Haiti, according to Samaritan’s Purse officials.

The initial response from the organization: a chartered DC-3, loaded with disaster relief supplies; a medical staff; a water engineer; 4,800 blankets; 160 rolls of plastic;2,200 solar-powered flashlights; two water filtration units that can provide 10,000 gallons of clean drinking water each day; 1,152 jerry cans for clean water; and 1,440 hygiene kits.

Another relief flight with additional staff and supplies is scheduled to fly to Haiti on Thursday.

Following the 2008 earthquake in China, Samaritan’s Purse was the first non-governmental organization outside of China to airlift aid to the region. A cargo jet chartered by Samaritan’s Purse was used to airlift some 90 tons of emergency supplies to Chengdu, China after the deadly earthquake in the region.

For details, check http://www.samaritanspurse.org.

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Erik Ogren of the Charlotte-based organization said the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team of crisis-trained chaplains is traveling to Haiti with Samaritan’s Purse.

“Chaplains will arrive today in Haiti to assess the level of need and to determine how to best provide emotional and spiritual care, in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake,” said Jack Munday, director of the response team.

“Please pray for the victims of the earthquake, especially those who are still searching through the rubble looking for loved ones.”

For information, check http://www.billygraham.org.

American Red Cross

The Red Cross initially set a nationwide goal of raising $200,000 for Haitian relief, but that figure is expected to climb much higher, as the extent of the quake damage becomes clearer.

The Upper Palmetto Chapter of the Red Cross, which serves York, Chester and Lancaster counties in South Carolina, says financial help is the big need now.

“We’re not looking for volunteers to travel over there,” said Rebecca Melton, executive director of the chapter. “It’s very difficult to get people in [to Haiti]. It’s even hard for the military.”

For information or to help the Red Cross, check http://www.redcrosshelps.org, or call 1-800-257-7575.

UNICEF

UNICEF is seeking donations to the ongoing emergency relief efforts in Haiti and the Caribbean region through http://www.unicefusa.org/haitiquake or call 1-800-4UNICEF.

Checking on relatives

U.S. citizens wondering about family in Haiti can call the U.S. State Department’s American Citizen Services line at 1-888-407-4747.

A warning …

The Better Business Bureau in Charlotte is reminding residents to be careful when they provide help for quake victims.

“In the face of any disaster, Americans will immediately make donations to help the victims,” said Better Business Bureau President Tom Bartholomy. “Unfortunately, scammers will also try to take advantage of generous donors.”

If you want to help, the Better Business Bureau offers the following advice to make sure your donations go to worthy charities and relief efforts:

Before making a contribution, go to http://www.bbb.org/charity to obtain detailed reports on relief organizations and charities. Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs.

Do not hesitate to ask for written information that describes the charity’s program(s) and finances such as the charity’s latest annual report and financial statements.

Find out what the charity intends to do with any excess contributions remaining after they have fully funded the disaster relief activities mentioned in solicitations.

Do not give cash or send money via wire transfer. Checks or money orders should be made out to the name of the charitable organization, not to the individual collecting the donation.

Keep an eye out for fake charities that imitate the name of well-known organizations in order to confuse people and potentially steal your personal information.

Don’t be pressured to give on-the-spot donations. Be wary of any request to send a “runner” to pick up your contribution.

Think twice about donating to any charity that is inexperienced in carrying out relief efforts, but is soliciting donations for earthquake relief. Although well intentioned, such organizations may not have the ability to quickly deliver aid to those in need.

Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity will do to address the needs of victims and their families.

Do not give your credit card number or other personal information to a telephone solicitor or in response to an e-mail solicitation.

To ensure your contribution is tax deductible, donations should be made to charitable organizations that are tax exempt, 501(c)(3) charities.