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Editorial: To aid relief, donate now and work later

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The images from the East Coast are nearly unimaginable. The devastation from Superstorm Sandy is so vast that it will be weeks before we are even sure exactly what was destroyed or damaged.

The death toll has topped 100, making it one of the deadliest disasters in recent years.

And recovery? That will be weeks, months or even years away.

Damage estimates right now are about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business. Those figures are so staggering as to be almost unimaginable.

The devastation wasn’t limited to the wind and water damage typical of hurricanes. Ruptured gas lines ignited fires in several neighborhoods of dense housing, destroying entire blocks of homes. Water gushed into utility tunnels, causing even more widespread power problems.

The scope of the situation can make those of us distantly removed from the damage feel powerless to help.

But Hoosiers are stepping up to help victims on the East Coast.

Sandy struck land near Atlantic City, N.J., just over a week ago. But by midweek, Hoosier volunteers already were mobilizing. And not all were Red Cross and Salvation Army disaster volunteers who are dispatched to the areas almost immediately.

Volunteers at the Midwest Food Bank prepared food shipments for the victims as part of a multistate relief effort. The Indiana Blood Center prepared to send needed whole blood and platelets east to replenish stocks and to make up for the expected shortfall in East Coast donations.

So what can one person do? The answer for now is simple: Donate money.

And to put that money to the best immediate use, give your gift to the American Red Cross or other established relief organization that can put that money to work right away.

A monetary gift might not have the emotional satisfaction of a hands-on contribution, but for the moment your wallet, rather than your hands, is what’s needed. After all, both gifts come from the heart.

Resist the temptation to organize a canned food or clothing drive. The hurricane victims are in no position to accept such charity, well intentioned as it might be.

We in Indiana are intimately acquainted with both disaster and relief efforts. We have been on both the giving and receiving ends of the help from strangers. The Henryville tornado this past March is a vivid recent reminder of nature’s wrath and the willingness of Hoosiers to step up and donate both in the short and long term.

Over the next several months, there will be plenty of opportunities for more tangible contributions to the relief effort. But for now, the best way you can help is by donating money to the organizations that have staff in the area right now.

Once again, we have the opportunity to be on the giving side in a disaster. We are confident local residents will help in whatever ways they can.

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