Last weekend we were driving back from our FUN family vacation in Oregon and we came upon the fires. We had been RVing up and down California, so we were intentionally disconnected to the news. The glow in the distance caught my attention, and then my disappointment as we approached LA and had excellent visibility on the extent of the fires. They were out of control and the flood of memories came back. I remember standing outside my home in the middle of a windy night in Escondido watching the burning ball heading in my direction. I remember my husband telling me not to worry, it was so far away. I remember worrying because the winds were ridiculous. Early the next morning we were packing for a quick evacuation. The fires came within a mile of our home, and while our belongings were spared, our lungs were not.
It seems in the wake of that fierce fire, those who weren’t displaced had someone staying in their home that was. I don’t recall anyone in the office feeling that they were unaffected. Some of us knew someone who became suddenly homeless for an extended period of time. Some folks are just now moving into the home they built to replace what was lost in that fire. Some vacant lots still stand vacant. These are the memories that cause our hearts to so immediately and openly go out to the victims of the recent L.A. blazes. And please understand, it is this natural human response of compassion and empathy that con men are counting on to cheat you out of your charitable giving.
Natural disasters provide a great opportunity for a bad guy (or girl) to set up a website or otherwise solicit donations to support the victims of a tragedy. It is compellingly attractive to them because there is no need to provide a product or a service or any follow-up whatsoever. In other words, no accountability. They tell you they are helping the poor innocent victims, and who are you to know otherwise? So you give your hard-earned money out of the goodness of your heart, and they go shopping. It’s disgusting.
Please check out a charity before you give. Give with a check rather than cash so you can track your contributions for tax purposes. Never trust a runner to take your money to the proper entity. Don’t give in to pressure; a legitimate charity appreciates your giving at whatever time is good for you. Keep in mind, some legitimate charities are not equipped to maximize donations for disaster relief. Do a bit of homework and give to those charities that specialize in this kind of service. Be caring, be generous, and please be smart. Check the charity out at bbb.org.