Chicagoans offer aid to Japanese

March 15, 2011 5:01:19 AM PDT
Desperate scenes from Japan following a deadly earthquake and tsunami have people in Chicago and across the country offering help.

After the Haiti earthquake in February of 2010, there were thousands of groups that wanted money or donations, but consumer watchdog groups found that many were not legitimate, so people with good hearts are being warned to donate smart.

Aid agencies from around the U.S. and the world are mobilizing to help the victims in Japan. Among those sending help is the non-profit organization Shelter Box. The group is sending boxes to Japan, each containing a tent, stove, water purification system and enough supplies to last six months. Each one costs $1,000. Last year, the charity sent 28,000 shelter boxes to Haiti.

"It is difficult to deal with some of the things that you see and experience, but to that one family you provide shelter for, it is a life-changing experience," said Mark Dyer, shelter Box response team.

World Vision is also taking donations to fund its relief efforts. Besides providing water and shelter, the group provides counseling for children.

"Children become anxious for their future. We set up areas where trained counselors can talk to the children about their experiences," said Casey Calamusa, World Vision.

With so many now calling for donations, the Better Business Bureau is warning people to research the charities to avoid getting scammed. Experts say be especially wary of anonymous solicitations from people on social-media sites.

"Be wary of people that say 100 percent is going back to the charity because there will be some type of overhead, administrative costs, even credit card processing fees," said Steve Bernas, BBB.

The Red Cross is also accepting donations. The organization says that the Japanese Red Cross Society has mobilized 11 different teams to go into the hardest hit areas of Japan to help.