On Monday, April 15, the world collectively watched in disbelief as the beloved Notre-Dame Cathedral burned. The iconic Gothic cathedral, which dates from the 12th century, was a masterpiece with its flying buttresses, incredible stained glass windows and carved gargoyles. It housed priceless Catholic relics and artifacts, paintings, statues and other treasured artwork.

The cathedral’s exterior has been the subject of numerous paintings and it was the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s famous novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Aside from being one of the most important religious sites in France, it is also a symbol of Paris and one of the city’s most visited monuments with more than 30,000 people visiting the cathedral each day.

As we learned, it is thought that an electrical fire sparked the blaze while the cathedral was undergoing renovation. It took nearly 12 hours and more than 400 firefighters to bring the fire under control. Spectators witnessed the great spire burn and tumble from its height of 305 feet to the ground as well as parts of the roof collapsing. Amazingly, the structural integrity of the towers and some of the building survived.

Fortunately, some of the cathedral’s priceless treasures were rescued during the fire, including a centuries-old Crown of Thorns made from reeds and gold as well as the Blessed Sacrament. These valuables were taken to the Louvre Museum for safekeeping. Copper statues representing the 12 apostles and four evangelists were removed just days before as part of the restoration project. Despite the devastating inferno, when the fire was extinguished, the world was amazed to see that the altar and cross had survived.

Experts plan to fortify and rebuild the 850-year-old cathedral. Donations have been abundant from French philanthropists and charities to fund the extensive rebuilding that is projected to take between 20-40 years to complete with an estimated cost of 3.3 billion dollars.

This disaster spurred an outpouring of love and memories for Notre-Dame on social media. Countless people posted their memories and past pictures standing in front of the iconic cathedral. Unfortunately, when there is a disaster, there also can be fraudulent fundraising to take advantage of people’s generosity.

Before donating to an organization or a crowdfunding project for the rebuilding of Notre-Dame, research the organization first. Search online for the name of the organization plus the word ‘complaint’ or ‘scam.’ Read what others say about the organization. It is important to ask questions. If you get a call from someone asking for money to help rebuild the cathedral, ask exactly how your money will be used. Research thoroughly before donating to an unfamiliar organization.

Crowdfunding sites may not monitor how donations are spent. Online fundraisers should explain how your money gets to the charity. They should also let you know if any amount of the gift will be kept as a fee. Donations to foreign organizations generally are not tax-deductible. For tax deduction information, check if the group is established in the United States or search the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization to see if your donation would be tax-deductible. Remember that donations to individuals, like in crowdfunding sites, are not tax-deductible.

CBS News recently reported that The Friends of Notre-Dame, a 501(c)(3) public charity, was accepting donations that are tax-deductible in the United States. For more information, visit www.notredamedeparis.fr/friends/donate/.

It is inspiring and encouraging to witness such passion from around the world cohesively supporting the rebuilding of Notre-Dame. The cathedral is a fundamental part of Paris’ architecture, history and identity. It would be difficult to imagine Paris without Notre-Dame.

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.