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Lauren Coughlin, Editor
8:15 am PST December 26, 2018

The amount of information that continues to come in regarding fire recovery and relief can be overwhelming.

It’s a good problem to have, as it means a lot is happening to support those in need, but with too much information comes missed or, at times, misunderstood information. Recently, I’ve received a couple inquiries from residents and non-residents alike as to how to donate to fire victims, and while I know some in the community are well aware, I’d like to reiterate what I know for any who are not so sure.

The Boys and Girls Club of Malibu’s Malibu Emergency Relief fund continues to be one of the primary local efforts. Officials from the City of Malibu as well as Sen. Henry Stern have pointed those looking to give to the effort, and the BGC states that it has already awarded more than $260,000 to 86 families or individuals. The BGC also has an Emergency Equestrian Relief fund. More information on both efforts can be found at bgcmalibu.org.

Officials have also recommended donations to the following: American Red Cross (www.RedCross.org); Los Angeles County Fire Department Foundation (www.lacfdf.org); Los Angeles United Way (www.unitedwayla.org); and Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation (www.lacountyanimals.org).

Meanwhile, many grassroots relief efforts, such as the Country Mart’s relief shop (above Toy Crazy), the Chabad of Malibu’s distribution center (visit www.onewithmalibu.com for details) and the Point Dume Club Shop are helping to provide material donations to local victims. Country Mart and Point Dume also maintain wish lists for anyone who needs something they do not have in store. 

These efforts, of course, are just some examples, and this surely is not a complete list of the many past and ongoing efforts organized by local residents and businesses. 

On a more personal level, a search of Woolsey Fire on GoFundMe will deliver hundreds of results. This is where it gets trickier. In some cases, the beneficiaries are friends and neighbors who you can speak with one-on-one. In others, these user-created campaigns can be misleading and should be approached with caution. 

Unfortunately, not all have the best intentions in times of crisis. Recently, price gouging incidents have been reported to the City, and individuals can and do take advantage of disasters in other ways — with some even coming to victims’ doorsteps. 

For more information on how to avoid scams, visit www.oesnews.com/beware-of-post-wildfire-scams/.

Any incidences of suspected fraud may be reported to the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or to the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTCComplaintAssistant.gov. 

In the end, it is up to you to decide which organizations and individuals are worthy of your hard-earned money (or physical goods) in a time when so many could benefit from donations. I cannot make that decision for any of you, but I can and will continue to share any verified information as best as I can.