Hurricane Maria, the latest in this year’s punishing series of storms, hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean last week, bringing devastation to those islands.

As with Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, NJSBA is publishing information on how New Jersey residents can help victims of the devastation.

Although school districts may not make contributions using public funds, individual board members, administrators and school staff may contribute as private citizens. In addition, organizations such as parents’ groups and student clubs may participate in fundraising.

The destruction suffered by Puerto Rico is of particular concern to many New Jersey residents, who may have family there. New Jersey is home to nearly a half-million residents of Puerto Rican ancestry.   On Sept. 25, Gov. Chris Christie’s office announced the opening of a toll-free information line. Residents who are searching for friends and loved ones, or are interested in volunteering and/or donating to reputable relief organizations, can call the help line to request free information and referral assistance at 833-NJ-HELPS (833-654-3577).

The hotline is open to residents who need help related to the disaster. Assistance will be available in both English and Spanish.  The hotline will be staffed during normal business hours, but messages can be left at any time. Residents interested in learning how they can get involved with disaster relief efforts are encouraged to visit: www.HelpNJNow.org. The website also links to charities assisting victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

A listing of local charities, as well as national and global charities, that are assisting those in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, is included in a recent New York Times article; the charities listed have all earned the top rating from Charity Navigator, which grades charities. Charities detailed include the Fund for the Virgin Islands; Unidos por Puerto Rico; All Hands Volunteers; and AmeriCares.

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