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Help Hawai'ian fire victims, but check out charities first

Wildfire aftermath Lahaina Maui Hawaii_Facebook August 10 2023-1P
County of Maui photo via Facebook

Late summer is wildfire season across much of the United States, and this particularly hot 2023 season has helped feed ferocious fires.

Our 50th state has been hit the hardest. A series of wildfires erupted on several of the Aloha State's islands in early August, fed by strong winds from Hurricane Dora as it passed south of Hawai'i.

The worst fires were on Maui, where starting Aug. 8 they burned out of control. By the time the flames were out, they left tragic evidence.

The Maui fire is the deadliest in the United States in more than 100 years, with nearly 100 people were killed. Thousands of Hawai'ians have been displaced. Businesses are gone.

Help is obviously needed.

Uncle Sam has stepped in, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mobilizing its island staff, as well as working with other federal partners to provide relief and lend support to the state-led and locally executed efforts.

Private help welcome, too: Hawai'ians also are gratefully accepting private help. The distance between America's Paradise and the U.S. mainland means that the best way for us to help is through financial donations. Here are some options.

As is the case in major disasters, the major national charities, notably the local branches of the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, provide on-the-ground help to residents. You can support those efforts by using the above links to donate.

The Red Cross also accepts texted gifts. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Maui United Way, the Honolulu branch of that national nonprofit organization, created the Maui Fire and Disaster Relief Donations Page to accept online donations. The charity's Honolulu office also established the Maui Fire Relief Fund.

The Hawai'i Governor's office recommends donations to Hawai'i Community Foundation's Maui Strong Fund.

The Maui Food Bank says donations will help its staff on the ground continue providing meals to those affected.

Together Rising, a Virginia-based nonprofit created to help recovery efforts after crises, promises that "every penny we receive will go to urgent relief and vital support" of the people of Maui.

Feeding America says donations made through its special wildfires page will go to support the nonprofits efforts "with partners on the ground in Hawai'i to support recovery."

World Central Kitchen, the mobile food preparation charity founded by Chef José Andrés, is providing meals to people in need by partnering with local Maui organizations.

Charity Navigator has a special Maui fire donation page.

The Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation is partnering with the Hawai'i Department of Education to help schools damaged or destroyed by the fires. All financial gifts through Oct. 1 will go to support school communities in West Maui.

The Council for Native Hawaiian Development is matching up to $1.5 million in donations for Maui fire victims.

The Hawaii Lions Foundation is matching up to $25,000 in donations for Maui disaster relief efforts.

Pets are family, too: Disasters also upend the lives of our furry family members. The Maui Humane Society is accepting donations so that it can continue to provide shelters for displaced pets (and their owners), as well as care for injured animals.

The animal-focused charity posted on its Facebook page:

"We need donations. Pet food, pop-up kennels, and litter are pivotal to providing sustenance to animals, as staff and volunteers are putting together kits for families and animals in need. We need these supplies ASAP to provide to our community members who had to quickly evacuate and leave all their belongings behind. … For those on the mainland looking to help, supplies can be delivered directly to us via our Amazon Wishlist and monetary donations will be crucial to cover the costs of the lifesaving medical treatments necessary to save animal lives affected by the fires."

Deductions possible: All of these groups will accept financial donations to support their current efforts to help Hawai'i residents rebuild.

If you itemize deductions, you can claim your gifts to these charitable groups on your tax return next year.

Don't be scammed: Finally, I've got to mention the insult to injury that follows major disasters. Yes, I'm talking about the despicable scammers who try to tax advantage of people's goodwill.

My to-the-point post Don't fall for disaster charity scams, published last year following Hurricane Ian's lashing of Florida, offers tips to ensure that your gifts really do go to disaster victims, and not into the pockets of crooks.

You also might find these items of interest:



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