Helping Victims of Hurricane Irma

Irma is gone, but those who were in her path will need assistance for many months to come to rebuild their lives. Charities have set up funds and organized relief efforts for those who want to donate time or money.

(Image credit: 2017 Getty Images)

Q: How can I help victims of Hurricane Irma?

A: When Irma blew through the Southeast, causing major destruction in parts of Florida and the Caribbean, much of the country was still focusing on the flooding in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma wasn't as devastating to Florida as some had predicted, but it claimed thousands of victims there nonetheless, and it ravaged many parts of the Caribbean. All those areas will need financial assistance for months to come. Here's how you can help:

A good first step is check out the lists of charities at Charity Navigator (opens in new tab) and the Better Business Bureau's Give.org (opens in new tab) that focus on Hurricane Irma relief and meet the charity watchdogs' standards.

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Some of the worst devastation took place in the Caribbean, and many international giving organizations are targeting their efforts there. USAID, the government agency that focuses on foreign aid, has a list of organizations that are assisting Hurricane Irma victims internationally (opens in new tab). These include Unicef (opens in new tab) and the Global Giving Foundation (opens in new tab), whose Hurricane Irma Relief Fund (opens in new tab) will work with local nonprofits to provide emergency supplies and help with long-term recovery and rebuilding.

Local organizations in Florida are also leading Irma relief efforts. The United Way of Miami-Dade County's Operation Helping Hands (opens in new tab) has teamed up with the Miami Herald to raise money for local nonprofits working on disaster relief. You can also go to the site to sign up as a disaster volunteer.

Besides asking for donations, the Red Cross (opens in new tab) is looking for people to volunteer at shelters to load and unload trucks, serve food, provide comfort, and set up facilities. See the Red Cross Hurricane Irma volunteer application (opens in new tab) for more information.

Community foundations throughout Florida are establishing funds for Irma victims. See the Community Foundation Locator's list of Florida foundations (opens in new tab). For example, the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys (opens in new tab) created the My Key West Emergency Relief Fund, which will distribute donations to nonprofits throughout the Keys to help with recovery. (This fund distributed $1.3 million to Keys nonprofits for disaster relief after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.) The Miami Foundation (opens in new tab) has several funds, including a Hurricane Relief Fund, an Irma Caribbean Strong Relief Fund and the Irma Community Recovery Fund. The foundation also has a list of other organizations (opens in new tab) leading Hurricane Irma relief efforts in Miami-Dade County, the Florida Keys and southwest Florida. See the Council on Foundations' Hurricane Irma page (opens in new tab) for more programs.

For more information on how to make the most of charitable tax breaks, protect yourself from scams and help victims of Hurricane Harvey, see Donating to Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts.

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Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.