Friday, Sept. 2, 2005
Locals getting behind hurricane relief efforts
By MICHAEL BOYLAN
Peoples hearts are going out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and nearly everyone wants to know how they can help. While large organizations such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army are providing the most support, local organizations and schools are mounting efforts to provide support, as are the Georgia Department of Human Resources and its Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).
Among the local efforts, the Optimist Club of Peachtree City is looking into donating some of the food that it collects throughout the year. The Fayette County High School football team is one of several organizations within the school that is beginning to raise money and ask about specific needs for the people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School held a school-wide Mass yesterday for those who have died and those whose lives have been affected, as well as for relief efforts. There will also be a prayer service next Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. The school is also responding by having dress-down days, bake sales, candy sales and more to raise funds for relief services through Catholic Charities. Father Paul Burke, the schools chaplain, has also stated that the school is encouraging students to sacrifice something to show solidarity with the suffering.
As time goes on, more will be done, Burke said. Like everyone, we are waiting to see how best we can serve.
State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox has also pledged help from the states Department of Education.
"Children who have been evacuated from their homes and are being sheltered in Georgia are our responsibility. Should it become necessary, their education can and will continue in Georgia's schools, said Cox. We will work with local systems to make sure these students are enrolled and begin attending classes as quickly as possible. Also, we will work with our neighboring states to make sure the transition is as smooth as it can be."
The Peachtree City Civil Air Patrol Falcon Field Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol, U. S. Air Force Auxiliary has had seven of their 30 senior members volunteer their assistance in relief efforts, should they be needed. Three of the members have medical skills, including one doctor, one registered nurse and one physical therapist. One member has volunteered to serve as a ground search team member and three members are part of an air crew team that can take digital pictures of an area and link them back to a government agency in real time. The group has not been called on but they are ready and willing to help if they are needed.
The best and easiest way for Georgians to help with this disaster is to make a financial contribution to volunteer agencies assisting in disaster relief, officials said. A cash donation gives volunteer agencies flexibility and allows them to customize their services to the needs of disaster victims. It also enables the voluntary agency to purchase exactly what people need or provide vouchers for victims to buy things for themselves.
Georgians are encouraged to contribute to the American Red Cross (1-800-HELP NOW), the Salvation Army (1-800-SAL-ARMY), or any of the volunteer organizations in Georgia that respond to disasters. State volunteer agencies include:
Adventist Community Services.
Under the governors Emergency Support Function 6 Mass Care Initiative, DFCS has opened shelters to accommodate out of state storm victims. One of the 10 shelters that has opened is in Coweta County. Should the situation require, DFCS is prepared to open additional shelters on an as-needed basis.
DFCS is also providing emergency assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina by providing emergency food stamp assistance at local DFCS offices around the state. Those storm refugee families who are not currently receiving food stamp benefits and require assistance are being asked to contact the local DFCS office in their temporary county of residence. Refugees will be treated as Georgia residents and will be able to apply and receive food stamp benefits at the county DFCS office.
For those refugees who are currently receiving food stamp benefits in their home states, they will be provided with emergency food supplies in cooperation with the local community food banks. The local DFCS offices will also serve as temporary addresses for recipients to receive replacement food stamp Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. In addition to food stamp assistance, DFCS is also working closely with authorities in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana to help issue Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency assistance.
The Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health, under the National Disaster Medical System, is making preparations to receive an undetermined number of patients being evacuated from hospitals in the affected areas along the Gulf Coast. It is predicted that up to 400 additional patients will be evacuated to Atlanta area hospitals.
Piedmont Fayette Hospital has been in communication with state agencies to be prepared in case the hospitals assistance is needed, officials said.
Crisis counselors are providing assistance to various shelters in the state also.
The Salvation Armys Emergency Disaster Services in Georgia has helped out by deploying 10 mobile feeding units to the Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning. The units are serving 5,000 meals a day and are the preferred food provider during the hurricane response efforts.
The Salvation Army is currently using its Emergency Radio Network to answer inquiries on the whereabouts of Hurricane Katrina victims and is now prepared to accept inquiries concerning the health and welfare of loved ones affected by the hurricane.
According to the Salvation Armys Web site, a $100 donation will feed a family of four for two days, provide two cases of drinking water and one household clean-up kit, containing brooms, mops, buckets and cleaning supplies. Donations can be made online, by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY, by mail to P.O. Box 4587 Jackson, MS, 39296-4857 or in-person at any Wal-Mart or Sams Club location.
They are not asking for in-kind donations right now, due to the uncertainty of specific needs, but they are asking for prayers for the victims and for the rescue and response workers and do have volunteer registration forms available on the web site.
The American Red Cross is providing temporary shelter at more than 230 locations for victims displaced by damage from Hurricane Katrina. This is the largest mobilization in the history of the agency, officials said.
Anyone wanting to donate money or in-kind donations can call the local Red Cross agency at 404-870-4440. Volunteers are also needed and can call 404-870-4425.
Several Red Cross shelters have already been opened in metro Atlanta, and more may be necessary, officials said.
The Red Cross, supported in large part by donations from citizens and corporations, is making a plea for financial support to help with hurricane relief efforts.
Secure online donations also may be made at www.redcross.org.
In coordination with the American Red Cross and local governments, Georgia has opened seven shelters for the benefit of citizens from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama evacuated due to the hurricane. These shelters are in Atlanta-Fulton County; Newton County; Dougherty County; Columbus-Muscogee County; Coweta County; and Troup County. Two additional shelters, one in Lowndes County and the other in Augusta-Richmond County, have been identified and will open if needed.
The Georgia National Guard is sending three Georgia Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters to the Gulf Region. The helicopters and aircrews are from Detachment 1, Company F, 131st Aviation Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. Detachment 1 recently returned from a one-year overseas deployment to Afghanistan where it conducted combat assault and humanitarian missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The CH-47 Chinook helicopter is equipped to carry payloads of more than 10 tons and can move large amounts of supplies and personnel during relief efforts. The units members have participated in numerous hurricane, flood and fire relief operations throughout the United States and are extremely experienced in these types of operations. On board the aircraft, the Detachment will carry relief supplies.
The Georgia Forestry Commission currently has 18 personnel deployed throughout Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to assist with clean-up and debris removal.
In addition to providing disaster relief to neighboring states, teams of Georgia state agencies are also responding to tornado damage in Peach, Carroll and White counties.
Coordinated through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, teams consisting of the Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia State Patrol and State Board of Pardons and Paroles responded as early as Monday night to provide assistance to tornado victims. GEMA is currently assessing the tornado damage to determine if the affected counties will meet criteria for Small Business Administration assistance. If a SBA disaster designation is approved, homeowners, renters and businesses could be eligible for low-interest loans.
An SBA disaster declaration will also enable the states Individual Assistance program to go into effect, which may provide benefits, such as rental assistance for up to three months and funds for repairs, to applicants who do not meet the SBA criteria.
Copyright 2005-Fayette Publishing, Inc.