Support Haiti relief with ‘open heart and clear head’, crime prevention specialist says

If you open your wallet to support the Haitian earthquake relief effort, find out what you should know before making your donation …

Teri Poppino, East Portland Crime Prevention specialist, says she’s drawn to support relief efforts, but is also concerned about scammers taking advantage of this tragedy.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although the full extent of the toll of Haiti’s earthquake last week has yet to be determined, as every day goes by it’s becoming clearer that the extent of the devastation – both in human life, and in property – is vast.

“The international, regional, and local response already underway will give way to a recovery effort that could go on for years, if not decades,” admitted a man who should know – Keith Berkery, Community Emergency Services Manager with the Portland Office of Emergency Management. He’s in charge of Portland’s emergency response to any natural disaster here.

Donate intelligently, crime-prevention specialist says
Teri Poppino, an ex-police officer and East Portland Crime Prevention Specialist, said she feels deeply for the people of Haiti, because the need is so great. “Haiti’s earthquake last week has captured our hearts. But beware: This is a time when scammers play on our good intentions, and send out fraudulent requests for relief assistance that look authentic. These cheats are counting on good-hearted folks to let their emotions cloud their judgment.”

Poppino said we may see crooks using the tragedy to take your money for their own uses by mail, in person – or especially, on the Internet. “It is good rule of thumb to initiate contact with a relief organization. Don’t respond to incoming e-mails unless you already have ongoing relationships with them.”

In her official capacity, Poppino said it is inappropriate for her to suggest charities to which one may safely donate. “But, I can recommend a website called ‘Charity Watch. It’s created by the American Institute of Philanthropy; they have graded the major charities on their use of funds (i.e. how much of your donation actually goes to the mission, how much to overhead, etc.).

Teri Poppino suggests you do some online research to check out charities before you give, so you don’t fall for come-ons from crooks and Internet scammers.

Charities we recommend
We here at East Portland News suggest you start by considering two Portland based relief organizations, Medical Teams International and Mercy Corps.

Another good bet is the American Red Cross. David Panichello, of Opti-Con,and a board member for the Gateway Area Business Association, told how when he’d traveled to Haiti before the earthquake to help out with a Protestant-based church group, he’d seen for himself how Catholic Relief Services efficiently helped the people of that poor nation.

“Before you send off your donations, please make sure you are directing your generosity to legitimate organizations that will put your money to good use,” Poppino concluded.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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