Slowly but surely, the donations came in: $1 here, another $3 there for the privilege of wearing jeans, hats or pajamas to school.

In the end, Canal Winchester students, teachers and staff members raised $3,375 in one week to donate to American Red Cross hurricane-relief efforts.

Winchester Trail Elementary School principal Lori Green said one third-grade student was so touched by the tragedy that she wrote Harvey a letter and donated the $5.53 she earned from doing chores.

In her letter, 8-year old Destiny Goddard wrote, "Dear Harvey, This is all the money I have. I was going to buy a toy with the money, but I decided to give the money to you."

Destiny's mother, Santoshi Goddard, said she is very proud of her daughter's act of kindness.

"I was amazed because I told her I would give her money, but she said, 'No, no, mommy, I want to give my own money,' " Goddard said.

Winchester Trail Elementary sponsored a one-day Hats for Harvey campaign on Sept. 7. Students paid $1 to show off their favorite hats and teachers and staff paid $5 to wear jeans for a day.

The effort raised $860.50.

Green said the fundraising provided a teachable moment.

"I think they learned that it is important to recognize when there are people who have suffered a loss that you look for ways to help fill the gap the loss created," she said. "We may not be able to do much, but every little bit we can do goes a long way."

Indian Trail Elementary centered its fundraising appeals around daily themes.

Principal Eric Riddle said students could pay $1 to participate on the day of their choice or $3 for the three-day relief effort.

On Sept. 6, students could pay to wear hats during school. Sept. 7 was Crazy Sock Day and on Sept. 8, students could come to school in their pajamas.

Teachers and staff could also help relief efforts by paying $5 per day to wear jeans to school.

Riddle said the school raised $1,501in three days.

"We were discussing with them (students) the importance of paying it forward, helping out those in need," Riddle said. "Even though they are young, they understood these people were suffering and they needed any assistance we could provide.

"I think that it says a lot about the character of individuals living in the community to be willing to give whatever they could to help out others," he said.

Superintendent James Sotlar said he is very proud of his students, teachers and staff.

"Whether it is collecting clothing or food items for our own Canal Winchester Human Services or money for disaster relief efforts for hurricanes Harvey and Irma, community service and helping others is something we try to instill in our students," he said.

Other districts

Other central Ohio school districts have taken a more direct approach to helping hurricane victims.

Marcie Aiello, a Gahanna Lincoln High School teacher, responded to a Facebook post from a teacher in Tennesseewho set up a simple Google form to collect information from teachers affected by Harvey and to collect information from teachers interested in helping.

Aiello is adviser of the all-girls "S" Club, the high school chapter of the international women's organization Soroptimist. Its mission is service for women and children. She was matched with an English teacher named Jessica Wheat at Dickinson High School, just southwest of Houston.

"Ms. Wheat and I have been corresponding via email so that the girls in my "S" Club can best help her classroom, students and school," Aiello said.

Wes Elifritz, Westerville North High School's athletics director, said money donated by students will assist Kristi Wolfe, a Westerville North alumna, for her high school in Cedar Creek, Texas, and North friend Dana Lofgren and her school, Kingwood High School in Kingwood, Texas.

Experts advise caution

While central Ohioans open their hearts and wallets to the victims of two hurricanes to make landfall in the United States, local experts advise donors be cautious about where they put their contributions.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25, dumping more than 40 inches of rain over four days in eastern Texas.

The resulting floods inundated hundreds of homes and displaced more than 30,000 people.

That was closely followed by Hurricane Irma, which hit Florida Sept. 9 and left storm damage and massive power outages behind.

"We always see the good in humanity come out in times of need," said Kip Morse, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving central Ohio. "The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey motivates many of us to help as soon as possible.

"We want donors to be aware of some important tips and key points of caution so that their generosity will get to those in need quickly and effectively," Morse said.

Make donations count

The Better Business Bureau and BBB Wise Giving Alliance advise people to help as much as they can to disaster relief efforts, but to do so with caution and make sure donations get to the people who need it most, said Judy Dollison, BBB vice president of marketing and communications serving central Ohio.

She said BBB officials are already seeing crowdfunding appeals of a dubious nature, and in the days ahead expect to see "storm-chasers" looking to make a quick buck off of cleanup efforts (bbb.org/storm).

Consumers can report suspected scams to the BBB Scam Tracker online at bbb.org/scamtracker.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance suggests donors verify the trustworthiness of soliciting relief organizations by visiting Give.org to access free reports that specify if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

Donors should also see if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in impacted areas.

Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly.

Donors should also be cautious about gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations.

In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need -- unless the leading organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly, according to the BBB.

The organization also advises people to keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals who post for assistance after a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support.

For those who decide to contribute via crowdfunding, it is probably best to give to people who are personal acquaintances that have posted requests for assistance.

ThisWeek reporter Marla K. Kuhlman contributed to this story.

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