Jerry King uses a dustpan to scrape mud off of his floors in New Bern, NC (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

TRENTON — After seeing horrific images of homes filled with water and mud after Hurricane Florence, the first inclination for many is to help — maybe send items needed to help residents get back on their feet.

But charities that are spearheading the relief and recovery efforts in the Carolinas say cash donations, not items, are the best way to help.

"It allows relief organizations to buy what is needed, when it is needed and where it is needed so you're not having to open up a warehouse to store stuff that might or might not be used,"  Kelly Higgs, executive director for the New Jersey Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, told New Jersey 101.5.

The group posted a list of trusted charities that are leading the relief efforts in the area affected by Florence.  It does not endorse any one group or oversee the disbursement of donated funds.

Higgs recalled leather bustiers, feather boas and bowling balls among the items that were sent by well-meaning people to "help" New Jersey recover from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. So were a truckload of flip-flops.

"We had to do something with it. We had to mobilize volunteers and find a place to store it and eventually find a way to distribute it. ... It just mucks up the recovery efforts and pulls the volunteer resources away from helping people to recover and start to rebuild because they're sorting laundry in a warehouse someplace," Higgs said.

High winds from Hurricane Florence uprooted a tree, crushing a car and toppling a wall (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Cash donations also help the area et back on its feet economically.

"You also are investing to rebuild the local economy because those relief organizations are on the ground in North Carolina and the affected areas, and they are going to buy the materials and supplies and resources that are needed locally," Higgs said.

Forty-six volunteers from the New Jersey chapter of the American Red Cross are now helping in the area and operating many of the shelters. They benefit from cash donations by partnering with corporate groups to move bulk quantities of relief supplies that can be distributed in neighborhoods.

"The Red Cross depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately," spokeswoman Diane Concannon said, adding that donors can earmark their gifts for Florence efforts.

The American Red Cross is sheltering more than 15,000 people in more than 150 Red Cross and community shelters across the impacted region, according to Concannon.

Higgs warned that another avenue people use to get help are GoFundMe pages, which are not vetted.

"Anybody can set up a GoFundMe page but you don't know the legitimacy of what they're raising funds for or where those funds will go," Higgs said. "Unforunately disaster brings out the best in people and sometimes brings out an element we don't like to see. People that take advantage."