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Editorial: Exercise caution in selecting hurricane charities

Here’s the thing about Americans. Even when we’re mad at each other, our instinct as individuals is to reach out and help when calamity strikes.

In that, we are often better examples than the governments that represent us. People understand things that political entities seem unable to easily grasp: When people are suffering, it’s time to pitch in. That’s what people are doing to help relieve the ongoing misery wrought by Hurricane Harvey in South Texas and Louisiana. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced. Some are hungry and without water. It’s time to help.

Unfortunately, it’s also the time that scammers get busy. They, too, understand the human impulse to help and are prepared to siphon off the dollars of generous but unknowing donors. It pays to pay attention.

The good news is that there are plenty of places to make donations that will actually get to the people who need help. Even better, there is a place to find those places:

The website is a clearinghouse that rates charities and, for now, is even offering recommendations on the best organizations in South Texas for donations. We commend it to the attention of anyone who wants to help alleviate suffering on an indescribable scale.

The storm has weakened to a tropical depression, but continues to wreak havoc. Houston is beginning to drain – has anyone ever seen whitecaps on a highway before? – but farther east and north, millions of people remain in the path of continuing destruction.

And, of course, drying out is only the beginning of the task. When the water recedes is when the enormity of the damage will start coming into focus. The price tag of recovery will reach into many billions of dollars.

Government will be there to help. There is no evident impulse to let Texas suffer without federal assistance the way Washington did to New York and New Jersey when Congress dragged its feet in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

But it will take more than government to set Texas and Louisiana back on their feet. Charities will shoulder much of that burden and they lack the resources to confront the scale of destruction that has swept across the region. They are delivering food now, rescuing animals now, providing shelter now. Their work is indispensable and they require the help of Americans across the country.

Among the top recommendations of Charity Navigator are some local entities close to the zones of destruction. They include the Houston Food Bank, Food Bank of Corpus Christi, Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society and San Antonio Humane Society.

Unlike the government, everyday Texans reached out to help New York after Sandy. That storm was devastating, but it pales in comparison to what has befallen Texas. It’s time for New Yorkers to return the favor.

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