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How to help Maria, Irma, Harvey victims

A woman passes out trays of food to

A woman passes out trays of food to evacuees at the Juan Ponce de Leon Elementary School before the arrival of Hurricane Maria, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Photo Credit: AP

The Caribbean and the southern United States were devastated within a matter of weeks after three storms battered the areas. One right after the other, the storms — Harvey, Irma and Maria — caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in destruction.

Here are ways to help victims of the storms from here on Long Island:

Donate money immediately, but make sure it’s a real charity

Donating cash is always the best way to help victims of a natural disaster, according to the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI). Supplies collected on Long Island need to be shipped to their destination, which requires time and money. Cash donations can be sent straight to local businesses in the surrounding area that can offer quicker, cheaper help.

Multiple national organizations are offering text message-based ways for people to donate funds. Texting the word “HARVEY” to 90999 will send a $10 donation to the American Red Cross for Harvey victims, while texting “IRMA” will send money to help those affected by Irma. The Red Cross also allows for online donations to general or specific funds. Texting “CCUSADISASTER” to 71777 will donate to Catholic Charities USA. To donate to United Way Flood Relief Fund, text “UWFLOOD” to 41444.

The Salvation Army is accepting donations. Donate by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY, through its website or by mail. You may also text "STORM" to 51555.

Catholic Charities USA is accepting funds to help Harvey and Irma victims, regardless of religion or background.

Before sending your money, CIDI recommends checking with sites like the Better Business Bureau, Charity NavigatorCharity Watch or GiveWell.

“Unfortunately, natural disasters can bring out the most shameless scammers,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement after Hurricane Irma. To avoid becoming a victim, he said to check the state website to make sure the organization is registered, avoid answering spam emails or phone calls and check before sending text-based donations.

While cash is the quickest way to give to those in need, Long Island spots are collecting specific items as a way to give back after superstorm Sandy hit Long Island in 2012. The Sandy Survivors to Help Harvey Survivors Facebook group is sharing ways for locals to help victims of the storms.

Don’t forget the animals

Pets are constantly lost or hurt in disasters like Harvey and Irma. Organizations like Austin Pets Alive! in Texas or Best Friends are accepting financial donations, volunteers and pet supplies.

Give blood

Blood banks are searching for donations to help victims. Schedule a donation on Long Island at New York Blood Center, which has locations in Bohemia, Lake Success, Massapequa, Melville, Port Jefferson Station and Rockville Centre.

You can also keep an eye out for local blood drives at libraries, fire houses or other neighborhood spots. New York Blood Center has a running list of daily blood drives, along with a map of its locations here.

Volunteer, but know you may not be selected

While all volunteers are welcome in times of need, volunteers can be turned down in more serious disasters. Those with prior relief experience tend to be chosen first.

Don’t donate your prom dress

If you do plan to donate supplies rather than cash, make sure there is a need for them. In the past, CIDI has reported receiving inappropriate donations like prom gowns, chandeliers and fertility drugs.

Know this isn’t your last chance to help

Full recovery from Harvey, Irma and Maria could take months or years, so the victims will continue to need help for some time. Since forecasters predict an active hurricane season, other areas will also need help.

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