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Red Cross, others prepare to send aid to Japan

By Angela Ward
March 14, 2011 at 10 p.m.

Local Red Cross officials are on standby to help with relief efforts in Japan, but haven't received any donations specifically earmarked to assist victims of the earthquakes and tsunami that rocked the country last week.

"We had a more immediate response to the earthquake in Haiti about a year ago," said Darrell Riley with the East Texas Piney Woods Chapter of the American Red Cross. "I don't know if that's because it's closer geographically or because it was a poverty-stricken country even before the earthquake struck there."

If people want to help, the best way to do is by making monetary donations to the American Red Cross, he said.

"It's really not cost-effective for us to transport to food, clothing or medical supplies across the Pacific Ocean," Riley said. "It makes more economic sense for us to accept cash, checks or credit card donations and purchase the needed items when we're over there."

People who want their donations to go specifically to help earthquake victims in Japan should include a note to that effect with their donation, he said.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management has issued an advisory that echoes much of what Riley said about the need for monetary donations.

According to the advisory, money is more effective than material goods because:

Monetary donations provide flexibility in situations that may be changing rapidly;

Monetary donations keep relief workers focused on their interaction with survivors, instead of diverting their efforts to sorting, storing, tracking and distributing goods;

People in foreign countries may have cultures that are very different from ours, so it is important that relief worked provide food and clothing that is culturally acceptable.

Kristie Brian, public information office with the Longview Police Department, said it's important for people to make sure all donations are going to legitimate nonprofit agencies.

If someone contacts a citizen in reference to a donation that person can make sure the organization is legitimate by taking down information about the business and then contacting the Better Business Bureau, Brian said.

"No one should give out personal information over the phone such as bank account numbers or credit card numbers," she said Also a person asking for donations should never ask for personal information such as Social Security numbers or other identifying information."

Anyone who suspects they may be the victim of a suspected scam can contact the police department for further assistance.

In addition to the America Red Cross, legitimate aid organizations that will be sending teams to help out in Japan, and ways to contact them to make donations, include:

<ul> <li>International Medical Corps, 1-800-481-4462 or</li> <li>Save The Children: 1-800-728-3843 or</li> <li>Global Giving:</li> <li>Network For Good:</li> <li>Word Vision:</li> </ul>



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