- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

Charitable giving for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist bombings has been unabated, and even more donations are likely to pour in tonight during an unprecedented multichannel network TV telethon.

Charity watchers, however, urge Americans to give generously but thoughtfully, and earmark their donations if they want it to go to something specific.

"Americans are very generous, and certainly there's a lot of need for the people who have been affected by these tragedies," said Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.

But the goal is to give confidently "after you've taken the time to check out the organization," he said.

Even charities created in response to the terrorist bombings last week should have a budget plan, a description of planned activities and a board of directors available, Mr. Weiner said.

Donations have surely surpassed the $200 million mark of two days ago: The American Red Cross alone had raised $140 million as of noon yesterday, said spokeswoman Devorah Goldburg. In addition, the Internet site for donations recently highlighted by President Bush www.libertyunites.org had raised more than $73 million by yesterday afternoon.

Tonight at 9 p.m., ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and many other networks will be hosting celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts in a two-hour telethon to raise money for the families of the victims.

And more is on the way, from star-studded concerts to business donations and local car washes.

To date, charitable spending has focused on the immediate needs of the victims, their families and friends, and the thousands of rescue workers and volunteers at the bombing sites in New York and Washington, D.C.

The American Red Cross moved into those sites within hours, setting up 24-hour "relief cities" with food, shelter, medical supplies, clean clothes and mental health counseling. Blood collection drives mushroomed.

The Salvation Army and several other charitable groups also quickly appeared, offering myriad emergency services.

The costs for all this haven't been released, but charities like the Red Cross have tried not to miss any opportunity to serve, said Bob LeRoy, who oversees gifts for disaster relief for the organization. On Sept. 11, in addition to its work at the bombing sites, the Red Cross set up 20 shelters near major airports to serve families of victims on the ill-fated planes as well as people stranded when national air traffic stopped, he said.

Charity officials say they don't yet know where the needs will be once the dust settles. The September 11th Fund, created by the United Way of New York and two other groups, hasn't yet disbursed any of the nearly $100 million in donations it has collected, a spokesman said this week.

"One hundred percent of the donations will be applied to relief efforts," the spokesman said, but spending decisions will be made after consultation with a number of groups.

Other charity experts said the long-term needs are likely to include everything from financial support for the victims' families to rebuilding businesses that were affected by the attacks.

"The dollar value will be enormous," said Pat Read of Independent Sector, a coalition for national nonprofit groups. "We've heard statistics that say that for every single job in the airline industry, there are six other jobs in related industries that are impacted."

Americans who want to help in specific ways should be clear about where they want their money to go, said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy in Bethesda.

Gifts given without specific instructions may end up in a charity's general mission fund, even if the money was raised during a disaster, he said.

If, for instance, Americans want to give to "victims' families with no insurance," they should write that on their check, he said.

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