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How to help Oklahoma tornado victims

EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Mandy Chitty pauses May 23, 2013 while ending the day's search for personal belongings at her home in Moore, Okla.

By Suzanne Choney, Contributing Writer, NBC News

Friday's devastating tornadoes, coming so soon after the heartbreak in Moore, means even more help will be needed in the weeks and months ahead. There are many, many relief organizations already in the area, working with residents. Here are some of them and ways that you can 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.

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, has established the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund to help "with the long-term medical, emotional and educational needs" of tornado victims.

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 sent disaster response units to serve hard-hit areas in central Oklahoma, including Moore, where it is set up mobile kitchens that are helping to feed people every day, and to South Oklahoma City.

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

The Oklahoman, NewsOk.com

A teacher hugs a child at Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013.

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
The recently established United Way of Central Oklahoma’s Disaster Relief Fund is meant to help to tornado relief-and-recovery efforts, the organization says on its site.

"Financial contributions are the best way to help unless otherwise requested." 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 is setting 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 providing "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.

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.

"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 previously 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.

On May 20, 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 May 21. "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.

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