Verify donations: What's the best way to help wildfire victims?

How to help: Cash gifts or item donations?

ATLANTA - It can be easy to grab a few canned goods from the cupboard or a bit of extra cash from your wallet to donate, but charities and officials in Tennessee near the front lines of the wildfires report they need cash more than supplies.

Relief organizations tell 11Alive that is often the case following disasters.

The Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) is part of the government agency USAID (United States Agency for International Development). 

CIDI reports they find cash to be the most effective donation following an international disaster, but charities find the same principles apply to domestic disasters.

In an article, CIDI states cash donations can be used to purchase exactly what is needed, there is no cost to transport it and donations spent close to the impacted area can help stimulate their economy. 

Divina Mims Puckett with the American Red Cross in Atlanta said her organization only takes cash donations because donations of supplies take volunteers away from other important tasks.

"We don't have the manpower to sort through those things and set up the bandwidth to get it to the people that need it," she said. 

Relief organizations also report money can be used to meet long term needs, while the need for supplies can be quickly filled.

Recently during Hurricane Matthew, the Red Cross in Georgia for example used its disaster warehouses. The Red Cross keeps toiletries and other goods on hand to immediately meet post-disaster needs.

"As soon as there is a disaster we ship and mobilize and get that into the people that need it right away," Mims Puckett said. 

PHOTOS | Wildfire spreads to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Officials in Pigeon Forge released a statement Tuesday showing the need for supplies there is already being met. 

"The outpouring of support and kindness shown to those displaced by the wildfires in Pigeon Forge, as well as to our first responders, has been extraordinary," the statement reads. "At this time, we have received numerous truckloads of much-appreciated food, water, toiletries and other items. Now that the majority of those displaced have returned home or found temporary housing, the need for these items is no longer as great. To avoid collecting unused items, we ask that everyone please suspend their donations. Please know that any surplus items will be distributed to local organizations to benefit those in need. Again, we are forever grateful to all of you for your kind generosity."

"We have also transported several loads of food/drinks to our friends in Gatlinburg... and they too have been blessed with an abundance of donations."

That is why monetary contributions can be made locally to assist displaced families and those who have lost their homes at any Citizens National Bank branch to: "City of Pigeon Forge Fire Relief Fund"

All monies collected via this fund will be donated to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County families in need, according to 11Alive's sister station WBIR in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Gatlinburg Relief Fund has been established at SmartBank. Donations can be dropped off at any location or mailed to:

Gatinburg Relief Fund
SmartBank
P.O. Box 1910
Pigeon Forge, TN 37868

Call 865-453-2650 for more information.

The Red Cross is not looking for untrained volunteers, but is accepting monetary donations. People can make a $10 donation by texting "REDCROSS" to 90999.

(© 2017 WXIA)


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