If you're in Houston, please do a little homework before dropping stuff off somewhere or showing up to volunteer.
Each group and location has specific rules, needs and logistical challenges — adding red tape to the process of matching volunteers, donations and hurricane victims, they said.
Houston residents, for example, are being asked not to bring donations directly to the shelters at Reliant Park or the George R. Brown Convention Center. Residents should avoid leaving donations at any nondesignated sites, since there's no way to collect them.
Two warehouses have opened near the Reliant and Brown shelters to handle donations, freeing up shelters running short on storage space because of a deluge of donations and hopefully giving needier shelters a place to call for supplies.
There will be two drop off locations - Gulf Haven Church at 10716 Sabo Road and West Houston Church at 2390 West Sam Houston Parkway North at Hammerly. Both locations will accept clothing, bedding, diapers, formula and other babyproducts, which will be taken to the warehouses for distribution. For most people, it may be easier to drop off donations at churches and community groups that have made plans to deliver them or to leave donations on the curb for city pickup.
Coordinators urged prospective donors and volunteers to check Web sites and make some calls to research what goods or assistance are needed.
Today, for example, the Houston Food Bank gave notice that it doesn't need any more volunteers. For now, anyway. By Tuesday, that could change, organizers said.
Volunteers should remain patient and try to remember that nonprofit agencies are being stretched thin, said Marilyn Fountain, community relations coordinator for Star of Hope.
"We do not want to frustrate people who are calling in whose hearts are in the right place," she said.
Help will be needed for months, and Fountain has a list of specific items that shelters still need to serve hurricane evacuees, including school supplies, grooming products, diapers, baby wipes and over-the-counter medicine.
She recommends donating larger family-size items, rather than travel-sized goods, when possible.
Blankets, towels, new underwear and tote bags or other containers to carry their new goods in are also in short supply, [Scott Arthur, Star of Hope spokesman] said.
At the House of Amos clothes pantry, volunteers are desperate for larger-sized diapers and school uniforms, including white and navy polo shirts, said Beryl Hogshead, a member of the nonprofit's board of directors.
Residents must also remember that these pantries and shelters still have Houston clients to serve, which really strains their supplies.
"The need is tremendous in the area," Hogshead said. "I had no sack lunches left for any of the regular people. They all went to hurricane people."
Help In Houston says:
Houston Association of REALTORS, KPRC, Houston Area Urban League, Houston Bar Association, and the Houston Young Lawyers Association have all teamed up to create the "Make a Home" program.
A comprehensive list of links and information for Galveston area relief efforts is here.
Finally, here's Air America Radio's Public Voicemail
Air America Radio's Public Voicemail
Air America Radio's Public Voicemail is a way for disconnected people to communicate in the wake of Katrina.
Here's how it works:
Call the toll-free number above, enter your everyday phone number, and then record a message. Other people who know your everyday phone number (even if it doesn't work anymore) can call Emergency Voicemail, enter the phone number they associate with you, and hear your message.
You can also search for messages left by people whose phone numbers you know.
Air America Radio will leave Public Voicemail in service for as long as this crisis continues. You can call it whenever you are trying to locate someone, or if you are trying to be found.