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American Red Cross officials are urging people to make financial donations rather than material contributions, such as canned goods or clothing, to help Hurricane Katrina victims.

Ron West, the deputy hub manager at the Red Cross at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, said material contributions, called in-kind products, cannot be accepted because of the cost to sort, package and distribute these donations to disaster victims is greater than the cost of purchasing the items locally.

West recommends in-kind items be donated elsewhere.

There are several ways to get money to hurricane relief organizations, which in turn can buy these in-kind products: online bank transfers, phone contributions, mail-in donations, or walk-in donations given at any Red Cross office, West said.

For each dollar given to the Red Cross, 91 percent is given directly to the relief effort, according to Jenine Moss, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross. However, Moss said the percentage going to Katrina victims may end up being higher, since the relief infrastructure already is in place.

“We really encourage people to go online, just because it’s the most direct way to send money, but we’re certainly not going to turn people away. It may be easier to just use the methods on the Web site, though,” West said during a phone interview Thursday.

At www.redcross.org, a list of addresses and phone numbers are provided for people who would like to give financial donations. These donations can be directed to specific relief funds or just given for the overall disaster relief effort.

Currently, West said, the Red Cross uses financial donations to support not only the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, but also the damage left behind from Hurricane Ophelia in North Carolina, as well as other disasters around the world.

The Red Cross is providing shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those affected by these disasters.

The English speaking toll-free number provided by the Red Cross is stateside 1-800-HELP-NOW.

The main address to mail checks or money orders to is: American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. When mailing a check, indicate where the money should go on the check's memo line.

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