What to know before donating to Hurricane Harvey victims

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When tragedy strikes, as it is with Hurricane Harvey, folks in Northeast Ohio are more than willing to open their hearts to help.

Before you send anything, you have to make sure it has a place to go.

"Sometimes people just send mounds of stuff that aren't necessarily needed and don't get used by the families in need, so let's be watchful and waiting and when Texas says they need 'x,' that's when we will send it to Texas," said Major Evan Hickman, divisional commander with The Salvation Army.

Major Hickman was involved in The Salvation Army's efforts to help people after Hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey in 2012.

He says things like clothing and household items will be needed, but not right now; the best way to help is to give people a chance to get the things they need immediately.

"It's still very early in the storm to know what the long-term needs will be, so we just want to get people cash so they can buy what they need for their family," Hickman said.

Once the water recedes, thousands of people still won't be able to return home; they will likely be in shelters for weeks.

The Red Cross has been coordinating those efforts in the affected areas. The organization is providing immediate needs for displaced people and monetary gifts help fund that.

"The only thing that people are being asked to do is for the people of Houston from the Red Cross perspective is donate money -- the fastest way to get help to the people who need it, and it's the most flexible way of giving what they want, when they want, when they need it."

Major Hickman says cash donations to that community also have another benefit: By allowing people affected by the storm to buy items, it will help small businesses and even large stores bounce back after days of lost revenues.

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