As authorities begin the slow, painful process of assessing the damage from Hurricane Irma, many across the country are asking what they can do to help victims of the catastrophe.
The answer is simple. The hurricane survivors don't need your contributions of food or clothing. They need money.
"Financial contributions allow professional relief organizations to purchase exactly what is most urgently needed by disaster survivors, when it is needed," according to The Center for International Disaster Information. "Cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased near the disaster site, avoiding delays, and steep transportation and logistical costs that can encumber material donations."
The organization recommends people do not donate perishable items such as food, which can be purchased locally. Or even clothing because of other logistical concerns.
"Many Americans respond to disasters by collecting food, clothing and household items for people in need. It is not unusual for community and civic groups to collect thousands of pounds of material. These donations require transportation — which is expensive and logistically complicated," the group says on its website.
You can begin by donating to charitable organizations like The Red Cross, which depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. You can help those affected by visiting redcross.org, or calling 1-800-REDCROSS to make a donation.
Other charitable organizations, including the Salvation Army, and UNICEF are also appealing for donations in wake of the disaster, while some companies, such as Apple, are making it easy for customers to donate to hurricane relief efforts. Apple customers can donate directly through iTunes and the App Store.
Not sure about which charity you'd like to donate to? You can visit GuideStar.org or CharityNavigator.org to check the legitimacy of charitable organizations. Charity Navigator has compiled a list of trusted groups for Hurricane Irma relief.
In addition to money, other organizations are looking for volunteers to donate an almost equally valuable resource: their time.
Volunteer Florida is looking for help at the state's shelters and other disaster relief organizations. You can register and find out more here. Gov. Rick Scott also said people can text "DISASTER" to 20222.