Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Checking the Legitimacy of Charities

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was asked to give gently used clothing to a clothing drive for victims of the hurricanes that have occurred in recent weeks. I am so happy to help, and I gathered everything my family and I could give away.

I was a little concerned because I saw a news report that said that sending “stuff” was not good because it was hard for people to receive it. The woman in charge of the drive promised she could make it happen. She also showed me the website of the organization she is working with that has a high charity rating. I just want to make sure this is legit. What should I do? -- For Those in Need, Chicago

DEAR FOR THOSE IN NEED: It is true that sending clothing and food items can be tricky for certain parts of the world that are surviving disasters. I also have seen reports that show food rotting at drop-off points and clothing seemingly dumped and discarded. It is also true that some organizations have figured out distribution systems to make it possible to get these items directly to the people.

You should go to the charity's website to learn who they are and how they care for people -- for this crisis and in the past. Also, you can look at Charity Navigator (, an organization that closely checks to ensure the financial health and transparency of charities and ranks them accordingly. This will help you assess whether your donations will get to their destination.

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