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David Otten: How you can help the Bahamas

By David Otten
Contributing writer
updated: 9/20/2019 10:50 AM

Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

Most of us want to help after a disaster, but there are challenges. Here are tips from the American Red Cross on assisting with immediate needs:

• Donate cash to an established disaster relief organization, such as the American Red Cross. It's the fastest way to get help to those who need it most.

• To donate used or new goods, contact an established disaster relief organization that is serving the affected communities to determine whether there is a specific need and if the organization is equipped to handle donated items. Some product, food or used clothing donations can actually overwhelm relief efforts by requiring resources for sorting and storing unneeded items. This is why monetary donations are the most effective means of support.

• Prior to delivering items to an established relief organization, call to determine the appropriate location and time for drop-off, as many have specific collection points.

• If you want to organize a food or clothing drive, contact an established disaster relief organization to determine what is most needed, and how to ensure the donations are properly collected.

Other tips
• Small donations via check or credit card may cost the organization more than they will receive. Therefore, make your gift meaningful.

• Know that you are really giving to the organization you intend to give to and not someone scamming you. High pressure solicitation is a red flag.

• Check out organizations you have never heard of before. The IRS is one the best resources for identifying legitimate charities and how fiscal responsible they are with their donations. If you have the organization's employer identification number the search will go faster. You can type in just the city where you think they are located and it will come up, but a town of 20,000 can yield over 200 hits. So, if you type in New York City as your only filter you will have a long list of charities to sort through. Here is the IRS's web address: A good watchdog site is Charity Navigator at and it is more user friendly than the IRS.

• Know the type of aid you want to offer. Some groups will not be able to start working until a certain amount of infrastructure is reestablished. You most likely need to have a functioning port or airport, roads cleared, and debris removed before you can build a new home for someone.

• Your church is always a trusted place to give donations as they normally are tied into their denomination's larger disaster relief structure. As they use a high amount of volunteer labor and little advertising, they make the donations go further than those who advertise on TV.

The Bahamas are in need of our help and will for some time. Blessed are the Merciful.

• David Otten is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.