We know Northeast Ohioans have huge hearts and we've seen disaster collections before, but heading into a disaster area on your own (even if it's to help) is a bad idea.

“They put a trailer together and when they got to the Houston limits and went to the organization that they'd picked without contacting them they were turned around and sent back here and two weeks later they had a trailer full of items they didn't know what to do with,” Tom Kelley, Director of the Lorain County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said.

Kelley has seen disaster relief efforts turn into disasters themselves.

“Recent hurricanes there was so much taken in that they had to literally bury in landfills when they were done,” he recalls.

The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster is a coalition of 56 of the country's most reputable charities that work with local and state emergency response agencies. They know exactly what's needed and use donations to buy locally and boost a devastated economy. Click here for a list if you’d care to donate to these agencies.

Often, the good hearted, with too much good stuff, are actually bad.

“They had so much bottled water they didn't know what to do with it they had stacks fifteen feet high and thirty feet around and had nowhere to put it,” Kelley recalls.

There's often no place for storage, and this isn't the time to clean out your closet.

“I've seen piles of used tennis shoes, I've actually seen tuxedos, prom dresses, formals things like that that just aren't usable obviously,” Kelley said.

So what can you do? Send cash.

“The relief organizations know what they need so give a monetary donation to them do your research find a reputable group and give them money and they'll buy what they need,” Kelley said.