Hurricane Katrina  
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10 Great Ways You Can Help

Let's not let our clumsy, uncaring government undermine our capacity to help those in need.
 
 
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In the absence of leadership and compassion from the White House and the entire administration, along with the unbelievable scope of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, there has been an unprecedented citizen response of money, goods, volunteers and technology creating a river of love and support to the more than a million displaced people. Simply stated, Americans are not going to let a clumsy, uncaring government undermine our capacity to support those in need.

It's clear that huge numbers of Americans don't agree with the Bush administration's philosophy and strategy of shrinking government and services. In downgrading FEMA and cutting funding for flood protection for New Orleans, while spending hundreds of billions of dollars to send hundreds of thousands of American troops and tons of equipment to Iraq, our country and our people have been left vulnerable. When big trouble happens at home, as it did with Hurricane Katrina, the fundamental cruelty of disdaining and downgrading government services is made abundantly clear.

As often happens in big disasters, huge enterprises like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army and others get the bulk of the money raised (the Red Cross has already raised over $350 million). Sometimes these big operations do not have the nimbleness or the understanding of the local community to apply the aid in the smartest and most strategic way. That's when we have to trust the people we know, and the local grassroots groups that have been serving their communities for decades.

What follows is one list of 10 great things happening in response to Hurricane Katrina. These are deserving places for your support, whether it is to give housing, use your tech skills, volunteer or give hard cash.

  1. American Friends Service Committee (via veteran reporter Doug Ireland): "If you'd like to make a donation that will actually help the poorest citizens of New Orleans, Biloxi, and the many small Southern towns devastated by Katrina, you should do so through the American Friends Service Committee. They've established a special Hurricane Relief fund. The AFSC was founded by Quakers in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an opportunity to aid civilian war victims. It's still Quaker-run, and its sterling history of agitation and education for peace is matched by its long record, for nearly a century, of lean, effective, on-the-ground service to victims of war and famine. A gift to the AFSC won't be wasted."
  2. NAACP disaster relief efforts. Juan Proano explains that the NAACP, America's oldest civil rights organization, "is setting up command centers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as part of its disaster relief efforts. NAACP units across the nation have begun collecting resources that will be placed on trucks and sent directly into the disaster areas. Also, the NAACP has established a disaster relief fund to accept monetary donations to aid in the relief effort. The NAACP has chapters and members throughout the disaster area, and is intent on getting relief to those most in need at the grassroots level. "

    Send checks payable to:
    NAACP Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund
    4805 Mt. Hope Drive
    Baltimore, MD 21215
    Donations can also be made online at: https://www.naacp.org/disaster/contribute.php

  3. Cindy Sheehan and Veterans for Peace. From Michael Moore: "Join with me in bypassing the colossally inept and incompetent Bush administration and get help DIRECTLY to the people of the New Orleans area -- right now. Many don't know who to trust. I have a way, though, for each and every one of us to do something that can affect people's lives TODAY. I've been working with a group that, I guarantee you, will get direct aid to the people who need it most. Cindy Sheehan, the brave woman who dared to challenge Mr. Bush at his summer home has joined The Veterans for Peace set up camp in Covington, Louisiana, on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. They are accepting materials and personally distributing them to those in need and are going to be delivering much-needed supplies." Needed now: paper plates, paper towels, toilet paper, baby diapers, baby wipes, baby formula, Pedialyte, baby items in general, powder, lotion, handy wipes, sterile gloves, electrolytes, LARGE cans of veggies, school supplies, and anything else to lift people's spirits. Visit VFPRoadTrips.org for instructions on shipping these things, or driving them there yourself.
  4. Help ACORN get on its feet again. ACORN, the most influential organization in the U.S. in fighting for low-income people is really hurting. From Allison Conyers: "Our headquarters in New Orleans has been destroyed. Now we are fighting to relocate and aid the more than 9,000 member families we have there. We have members in Houston who are taking in many families and are now organizing a van tour that will pick up goods from cities all over the country. We need support to open a temporary national headquarters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and, when possible, reopen our offices in New Orleans. As we get up and running, we will gather together our displaced community members and work to help secure the housing, community services, and other relief they need. All of this will be expensive, so please consider a contribution to the ACORN Hurricane Recovery and Rebuilding Fund."
  5. Help people reconnect. PeopleFinder is a volunteer-driven database project attempting to compile all of the information currently found online -- from official Red Cross databases to Craigslist lost-and-found postings -- into one central repository, and to republish that information in a way that will be easily searchable and amendable to existing databases. From Zack Rosen, founder of CivicSpace Labs: "I was stunned by the response they received when the project was launched on Friday. By Saturday, we had around 100 developers working on the various pieces; by this afternoon, volunteers have processed over 60,000 records of information. I haven't ever seen anything like it." They're expecting to have the search functions finished by the weekend, and will be working with the Red Cross and FEMA to finalize some of the implementation.

    A number of technicians at Community Wireless Rapid Response are putting together a low-powered FM radio network, and are in need of radio equipment donations. They need 10,000 radios and the batteries to run them ASAP. They're also working on setting up WiFi and other wireless communications, and are based out of Houston. Equipment and techies in that area are needed.

    Air America Radio's Public Voicemail, 1-866-217-6255, is a way for disconnected people to communicate in the wake of Katrina. Here's how it works: Call the toll-free number above, enter your everyday phone number, and then record a message. Other people who know your everyday phone number (even if it doesn't work anymore) can call Emergency Voicemail, enter the phone number they associate with you, and hear your message. You can also search for messages left by people whose phone numbers you know. Air America Radio will leave Public Voicemail in service for as long as this crisis continues. You can call it whenever you are trying to locate someone, or if you are trying to be found. Air America Radio brings you Emergency VoiceMail in conjunction with VoodooVox.

  6. Supporting local foundations and organizations. From Sara Van Gelder, editor of Yes Magazine: "Here are some local groups who need donations to enable them to provide immediate disaster relief. These groups come well-recommended by trusted sources as organizations with a long-term commitment to stricken areas and a strong track record of making a difference."
    • The Enterprise Corporation of the Delta and the Hope Community Credit Union will use donated funds for immediate relief, and then help people rebuild their homes and businesses in the distressed communities in Louisiana and Mississippi where these not-for-profit organizations have been operating for a dozen years.

      Enterprise Corporation of the Delta
      222 North President Street/Suite 200
      Jackson, MS 39201
      Phone: 601-944-1100; Toll-free: 1-866-THE-DELTA (1-866-843-3358); FAX: 601-944-0808
      Email: info@ecd.org

    • The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is estimating that as many as half a million displaced people may be in Baton Rouge for up to six months. The foundation's Hurricane Katrina Displaced Residents Fund is seeking funds to assist with housing, food and basic necessities for these hurricane refugees. A second fund, Hurricane Katrina New Orleans Recovery Fund, will help those who return to the Greater New Orleans area get back on their feet. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is a non-profit community foundation comprised of over 300 charitable funds.

      Baton Rouge Area Foundation
      402 N. Fourth Street
      Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802
      Phone (225) 387-6126
      Toll-free 1(877) 387-6126

  7. Housing offers. MoveOn has the largest housing network operation running so far, and the Louisiana state government has endorsed it on their site (note that all housing shelters listed for the state of Louisiana are listed as full). From Noah T. Winer: "In the face of the enormous tragedy unfolding in the Southeast, the response from MoveOn members and the general public to our volunteer housing efforts has been amazing and heartwarming. Since last Thursday, offers of over 150,000 beds have been posted at hurricanehousing.org, with over 50,000 of those spots in the Southeast. ...

    Over 1,500 people have responded to the postings, seeking housing for 11,000 hurricane victims -- even as most relief organizations are still focused primarily on saving everyone they can from the most immediate dangers. With over a million people displaced, we expect that the housing offered so far will be snapped up."

  8. Preventing local non-profits from getting marginalized. From Drummond Pike at the Tides Foundation: "In the past, Tides has established Rapid Response Funds for emergencies (Hurricane Mitch, 9/11, and the recent tsunami). In each case, we have used the funds to fill in the gaps where progressive organizations, community groups or underserved populations are left marginalized by the larger relief programs. That is our intent here. We expect that the bulk of the funds will be used to support the recovery of nonprofits that have served the Gulf States for years. Once on their feet, these groups will be one of the best ways to aid displaced people in dire straights. Second, we will be looking for ways to help undocumented immigrants and others often left outside government and Red Cross sponsored programs.

    Tides Rapid Response Fund for Hurricane Katrina Relief and Rebuilding has been established for our friends to easily make contributions. You can make an instant online donation to the fund by clicking the DonateNow button at www.tidesfoundation.org/RR_0905.cfm "

  9. Supporting the AFL-CIO Union Community Fund's special Hurricane Relief Fund. Donations will be targeted to meet the most critical needs among working families. From the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center: Those of us fortunate to be outside the hurricane's path must help and we must help now. The AFL-CIO's Union Community Fund has established a special Hurricane Relief Fund that will target help where it's needed most by working families. We are working with the labor federations in affected states and with relief organizations to make sure your contributions help brother and sister union members whose lives have been turned upside down. Please click on the link below to make your tax-deductible contribution now: https://secure.ga3.org/08/UCF_Katrina_Relief

    The Union Community Fund -- "labor's charity for working families and communities in distress" -- is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity. Donations to the Union Community Fund are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.

  10. Supporting the local progressive union community coaltion. From Van Jones, executive director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights: "Community Labor United (CLU), a coalition of the progressive organizations throughout New Orleans, has brought community members together for eight years to discuss socio-economic issues. We have set up a People's Hurricane Fund that will be directed and administered by New Orleans' evacuees. The Young People's Project, a 501(c)3 organization formed by graduates of the Algebra Project, has agreed to accept donations on behalf of this fund. Donations can be mailed to:
    The People's Hurricane Fund c/o The Young People's Project
    99 Bishop Allen Drive
    Cambridge, MA 02139

    If you have comments of how to proceed or need more information, please email Curtis Muhammad, muhammadcurtis@bellsouth.net

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet. Cindy Gantz and Deanna Zandt provided research for this article.