Henrico woman donates monthly pension to tornado survivors; here’s how you can help and avoid scams

U.S. and World

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — As people across the country begin to digest the devastation of recent deadly twisters in the Midwest and South, many are asking how can I help?

Donations sites are out there and available, but so are donation scams that people need to be mindful of. Monetary donations are pouring in from across the country since tornadoes spawned across six states. Needless to say hearts are in the right place, but some are ready and willing to take advantage and take your money.

As of Monday, dozens in Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee are dead and even more people are left to pick up the pieces. Char Underwood tells 8News she is emotionally impacted by the tragic natural disaster.

“I want to cry when I think about what they’re going through,” said Underwood. “It’s just sad and hard to imagine what they’re going through.”

Feeling helpless in Henrico, Underwood wanted to assist in any way possible.

“I’m so sorry,” Underwood said. “So, I wanted to give a little something.”

By something, she means half of her monthly retirement pension. On Monday, Underwood addressed a special envelope that she decorated with holiday stickers and headed to the Post Office on Chamberlayne Avenue. Underwood walked through the doors and mailed the check off to Kentucky with love, kissing the envelope before sending it through the mail shoot. She told 8News she will donate the other half to another state in need in the coming days.

“I’d like to see it help someone,” Underwood shared. “Help someone not give up and realize that there are people out here who want to help.

Underwood donated to a special relief fund set up by Kentucky’s Governor just days ago. Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund is a secure site, but not all are.

Leslie Blackwell with the Better Business Bureau says scammers are out looking to take advantage of generous people after major tragedies, including disaster relief.

“When we see a tragedy happen, right behind them following, are the scammers and the fraudsters,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell offering up some helpful tips if you’re interested in donating. She says if you donate money be sure to ‘do your homework’. That means look for credible organizations and charities and go through and vett them. Blackwell adds if you can, try to donate directly through the organization’s website, not through text or social media links. It’s recommended that you always use a credit card, not debit card, and beware of pop-up fundraising pages.

“Things to think about– who actually started that GoFundMe page. Are they family, are they friends, and look at some of the comments. You’ve just got to be careful because some of that money never gets to those who it’s intended to help.”

Many Virginians and people across the country have been asking if they can donate supplies, like diapers, wipes and water. The BBB advises financial donations right now because the organizations don’t have the man power to distribute the items at this time. Blackwell says it’s best to donate money and let the ones on the ground get it to the victims and fulfill proper needs.

Some recommended donation sites include Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Feeding America.

For more organizations, click here.

Anyone who comes across fraudulent activity can always report it to the BBB. Blackwell says also look out for ‘storm chasers’. She explained that those are the home improvement, insurance and repair companies that pop-up after natural diasters. While some are legit, others are not.

The BBB recommends vetting charities and organizations on give.org.

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