TODAY Gives Hope

How to help Oklahoma tornado victims

May 22, 2013 at 12:07 PM ET

Image: Teacher hugs student
Paul Hellstern / The Oklahoman, NewsOk.com
A teacher hugs a child at Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in Oklahoma Monday, May 20, 2013.
Image: TODAY Gives Hope
TODAY

The loss of life and stunning devastation in Oklahoma City suburbs after a monster tornado ripped through the area are heart-wrenching. "The streets are just gone. The signs are just gone," said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, after she toured the area by helicopter Tuesday. And many, many relief organizations are getting the message out on how to help.

American Red Cross

The Red Cross has set up shelters in various communities. You can donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund here, and the organization also suggests giving blood at your local hospital or blood bank. Fundraising efforts were buoyed Tuesday by a $1 million pledge from Kevin Durant, of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, via his family foundation.

If you're searching for a missing relative, check Red Cross Safe & Well's site. And please register if you're within the disaster region. The site is designed to make communication easier after a tragedy like this.

If you want to send a $10 donation to the Disaster Relief fund via text message, you can do so by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999. As in the case with other donations via mobile, the donation will show up on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your balance if you have a prepaid phone. You need to be 18 or older, or have parental permission, to donate this way. (If you change your mind, text the word STOP to 90999.)

The Red Cross also accepts frequent flier miles as donations. Delta, United Airlines and US Airways partner with the Red Cross throughout the year, which uses miles to help get volunteers and staff to key locations during disasters. (Note: The donation is not tax-deductible as the IRS considers it a gift.) For Delta, email: delta.bids@delta-air.com with your SkyMiles number, the number of miles you want to donate, and specify the Red Cross as the charity. You can donate miles online at United Airlines Donate Your Miles and US Airways Dividend Miles.

Phone: 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767); for Spanish speakers, 1-800-257-7575; for TDD, 1-800-220-4095.

OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund

The state of Oklahoma, coordinating with the United Way of Central Oklahoma, on Tuesday established the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund to help "with the long-term medical, emotional and educational needs of victims of the May 20 tornado in Moore and the May 19 tornado near Shawnee."

Donations can be made online at UnitedWayOKC.org.

Phone: 1-405-236-8441.

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, working with the Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, is seeking monetary donations. To donate, visit the regional food bank's website, or give $10 by texting the word FOOD to 32333.

Phone: 1-405-972-1111

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief

This organization says donations will "go straight to help those in need providing tree removal services, laundry services and meals to victims of disasters."

It is requesting monetary donations (It says clothing is NOT needed). For more information, and to donate, visit Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief's website.

You can send checks to: BGCO, Attn: Disaster Relief, 3800 N. May Ave., Oklahoma City, OK., 73112.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is organizing disaster response units to serve hard-hit areas in central Oklahoma, including Moore, where it is sending mobile kitchens that can serve meals to 2,500 people a day, and to South Oklahoma City.

In Little Axe, Okla., the organization said, the army's Central Oklahoma Area Command Disaster Service Unit was busy feeding breakfast, lunch and dinner to people, "even as one of our Salvation Army family member's home was destroyed."

Supporters can donate online via the organization's website, SalvationArmyUSA.org. You can also text the word STORM to 80888 to make a $10 donation via cellphone.

If you want to send a check, the Salvation Army asks that you put the words "Oklahoma Tornado Relief" on the check, and mail it to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK., 73157.

Phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769)

Related: Consumers warned about fake Oklahoma charities

Central Oklahoma Humane Society

The Central Oklahoma Humane Society is in need of towels, paper towels, bleach, gloves and crates to help with lost and injured animals. "Currently our greatest need is financial donations to help us treat and house lost and injured animals at our facilities," the society says on its site. Donations can be made online here and should be designated for the "OK Humane Disaster Relief Fund."

Phone: 1-405-607-8991

Feed the Children

Feed the Children has set up five locations in Oklahoma City to accept donations to help victims of the Moore tornado. The organization is accepting items including diapers, canned goods, non-perishable food, snack items, water and sports drinks. The organization is also supporting mobile canteens in partnership with the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.

You can donate online, or make a $10 donation by texting the word DISASTER to 80888.

Phone: 1-800-627-4556

United Way of Central Oklahoma

A disaster relief fund is being activated as of May 21 so that individuals can specifically donate to tornado relief-and-recovery efforts, the organization says on its site.

"Financial contributions are the best way to help unless otherwise requested." Donations can be made online at

United Way of Central Oklahoma’s Disaster Relief Fund is open. Donations may be made online here. Checks, with a notation of "May Tornado Relief" can also be sent to the United Way of Central Oklahoma, P.O. Box 837, Oklahoma City, OK , 73101.

Feeding America

Through its network of more than 200 food banks, Feeding America, whose mission is to "feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks," says it will deliver truckloads of food, water and supplies to communities in need, in Oklahoma, and will also "set up additional emergency food and supply distribution sites as they are needed." You can donate online here.

Phone: 1-800-910-5524.

Operation USA

The international relief group, based in Los Angeles, says it is "readying essential material aid — emergency, shelter and cleaning supplies" to help Oklahoma's community health organizations and schools recover.

You can donate online here. You can also give a $10 donation by texting the word AID to 50555. Checks should be sent to: Operation USA, 7421 Beverly Blvd., PH, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone: 1-800-678-7255.

Convoy of Hope

The Missouri-based nonprofit organization has done work in other disasters, including the Haiti earthquake, with a mission of getting food and water to those after disaster strikes. Now it's doing the same for Moore, Okla. You can donate online here. Convoy of Hope is also going the crowd-sourced route, using HopeMob, a site similar to Kickstarter but for raising money to help disaster victims and others in need, which charges no fees to the organizations that use it. Convoy of Hope's goal on the site is to raise $15,000 in seven days to help Moore.

"Why 7 days? In these first 7 days the town of Moore, OK will be consumed with clearing out destruction and accessing their needs," HopeMob says on its site. "Once those needs are known we want to be able to give them the funds to help them rebuild in the long term."

Phone: 1-800-988-0664

Direct Relief

The Santa Barbara, Calif.-based, non-profit organization provides medical assistance and personal hygiene items to those hurt in disasters, as well as in other circumstances.

"So far we have heard from health center partners responding in Oklahoma and are preparing an emergency shipment to help support the efforts there. Direct Relief has been receiving requests for emergency supplies, personal care and protection items — including hygiene supplies, infection control products, gloves, soap, shampoo, deodorant, sanitary napkins, diapers, wipes and formula," said Kerri Murray, Direct Relief vice president, in an email.

To donate, visit DirectRelief.org.

Phone: 1-800-676-1638

AmeriCares

The Emergency Response team for AmeriCares is in Oklahoma, "coordinating deliveries of emergency aid and assessing the needs of survivors and health care organizations in the disaster area."

Since 1982, the Connecticut-based nonprofit has delivered medicine, medical supplies and aid to those in need around the world and across the United States.

You can donate online here. You can also give a $10 donation by texting the word LIVE to 25383. Checks or money orders can be mailed to: AmeriCares, 88 Hamilton Ave., Stamford, CT 06902.

Phone: 1-800-486-HELP (1-800-486-4357)

Operation Blessing International

Humanitarian organization Operation Blessing International, which last week coordinated more than 500 volunteers in Granbury, Texas, after that area was hit by a tornado, is working with The Home Depot and dispatching a construction unit, mobile command center, trucks with tools and supplies and a team of construction foremen to Moore.

Late Monday, Operation Blessing International also "loaded and deployed two tractor-trailer truckloads of food and emergency relief supplies from its warehouse in Dallas, Texas, in partnership with the humanitarian organization, Mercury One," said a Operation Blessing spokeswoman.

The Virginia Beach-based group's online link for donations is here.

Phone: 1-800-730-2537

Samaritan's Purse

The international Christian relief organization focuses on cleaning and repairing damaged homes and sent two disaster relief units from North Wilkesboro, N.C. to Oklahoma Tuesday. "The tractor-trailers are stocked with heavy-duty plastic, chainsaws, generators, and other tools and equipment. The units also will serve as command centers for the response," Samaritan's Purse says on its website.

You can donate online here. You can also give a $10 donation by texting the word SP to 80888.

Phone: 1-800-528-1980

Save the Children

Save the Children responds to disasters around the world, and has created an "Oklahoma Tornadoes Children in Emergency Fund" for online donations. The organization provides food and medical care to children whose families have been displaced from their homes. You can give a $10 donation by texting the word TWISTER to 20222.

Phone: 1-800-728-3843

United Methodist Committee on Relief

The committee works with local United Methodist churches and trained disaster response workers to help with cleanup and rebuilding, pastoral counseling and support for children and youth who have been through trauma.

You can donate online here. You can also give a $10 donation by texting the word RESPONSE to 80888.

Phone: 1-800-554-8583

LifeChurch.tv

Life Church.tv, which describes itself as "Oklahoma's largest evangelical church," says its Oklahoma City metro locations will accept donations of items over the next week, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and distribute them to tornado victims. Among the items needed: Toiletries, diapers, wipes, formula, baby bottles, new clothing, new shoes, and bags, backpacks or plastic tubs for carrying items.

You can also donate money online by visiting LifeChurch.tv, or by texting the word RELIEF to 86613, and selecting an amount you would like to donate.

Phone: 1-405-216-7054

Jewish Federations of North America

The Jewish Federations of North America is working with the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma, which is coordinating efforts with a local food bank, Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross. The Jewish Federations of North America has established an Oklahoma City Tornado Relief fund. Donors can contribute online here.

Checks can also be sent to the JFNA national mailbox at: The Jewish Federations of North America, Wall Street Station, P.O. Box 148, New York, NY, 10268. Please indicate "JFNA Oklahoma City Tornado Relief Fund" on all checks or in the designation box online.

Oklahoma Tornado Relief 2013

The Oklahoma Tornado Relief 2013 fundraising effort is being done through a crowd-sourced effort using Fundly, a website for fundraising, akin to HopeMob, mentioned above. On the site, you'll find various fundraising causes to help tornado victims, and can choose which you'd like to support.

DonorsChoose.org

DonorsChoose.org is creating a special online fund to collect donations for the teachers and schools of Moore, Okla., to help respond and rebuild. Donors Choose will work with the teachers of Moore to assess what they need for their classrooms and allow them to identify the real-time solutions and supplies their community and their students need: everything from clothing for their students to first-aid kits.

To donate, visit www.donorschoose.org

And a note of caution ...

Emotions are running high, understandably, in light of the awful news from Oklahoma. Many of us want to help in some way. But this vulnerable time is also rife with and ripe for scammers who want to prey on your emotions and wallet. They may seek you out via email, knock on your door, or even try to get you to give money via Facebook.

The Federal Trade Commission has guidelines about charity donations, including these tips:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events, like the tornadoes.
  • Ask if a caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer — or if you don’t like the answer you get — consider donating to a different organization.
  • Don’t give out personal or financial information — including your credit card or bank account number — unless you know the charity is reputable.
  • Never send cash: you can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes.
  • Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.

Ben Popken and Devin Coldewey also contributed to this report.

This story was updated May 22.

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