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How You Can Help Katrina's Victims

Practical, concrete suggestions.

by Brenda Lugannani (September 19, 2005)

(Note: CLN received this note from industry veteran Brenda Lugannani. We thought the subject was so important that we put it in an email newsbrief and sent it to subscribers on Sept. 5. In case you missed it, here it is again.)

To My Craft Industry Friends,

Those of you who know me well, know that I can’t tolerate suffering of any kind. So the Katrina situation has been tough on me and anyone else around me. And while I wanted to drop President Bush (who I campaigned for vigorously) in the Superdome and tell him he could come out when everyone else was picked up – that wasn’t a productive use of anger. I have since, come to a completely different understanding of the issues involved in the evacuation. I’ll share some of those with you.

Now, in North Texas, we have been challenged to make a home for people without homes. It was a mixed blessing when FEMA called and accepted the offer of our dormant summer church camp to house 150 people for the next 60 to 120 days. They accepted, and told us that they would deliver 250 people to our church camp today, 150 adults and 100 children. Apparently math is not a strong point at FEMA today – but they explained that young children would sleep with their parents until they could help us secure more beds.

The facility would have 24 hour police coverage, fire trucks, and FEMA personnel.

At the same time our offer was accepted, all around us we saw similar offers accepted. For example, 50 people in a church a mile from us, 100 people at First Baptist McKinney, 1,000 people at the vacant Wal-Mart, abandoned when Wal-Mart opened their new prototype store in McKinney. Volunteers there have ripped up the carpeting, painted the floors and walls, built some privacy walls, set up cots, supplied bedding, and collected new clothing for the people arriving this morning.

Our first trip to Wal-Mart found at least 20 other people buying the same list we had – and Wal-Mart offering to help us any way they could – including discounts; by the time we left the first Wal-Mart they were out of twin sheets, pillows, toothbrushes, $5 shirts, men’s underwear and socks, and women’s underwear and socks. They told us trucks from their warehouse were on the way with more.

The security coverage became real when our oldest son, a police officer in McKinney, called to tell us that Collin County had declared a "state of emergency." Until further notice all police officers would work 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week, providing the 24-hour coverage at dozens and dozens of sites housing victims from Katrina – and could we help with our grandson.

FEMA had alerted them that to facilitate the evacuation there was not sufficient time to conduct background checks. There was no time to see who was on parole, who was one of the prison escapees, who were registered offenders, and until all of that could be determined, they would leave no refugee site without security. Amazing the things you don’t think about. And, how will all of that be verified without identification?

So, today is about enough clothes, enough bedding, good food, and basic needs. There’s not time for other things. Next will be enough washing machines and driers, Internet hook-ups, computers, school and job searches.

But once all that is over, these people will need things to do. As you think about how you can help, that may be the time for the craft industry to make a big difference. Many of you have already made decisions to make contributions, and that will be a tremendous benefit.

FEMA has requested school supplies, games, puzzles, and quiet activities for the facilities. But how is all of that being coordinated?

I struggled with that until I came into contact with Dan Fitzgerald, the EVP of the Volunteer Center of North Texas. Their mission is to provide non-profit groups and agencies with inexpensive supplies to meet their needs. They secure donations, distribute to hundreds of agencies in Texas, and facilitate searches for needed supplies. They have been working 24 hours a day.

To contact them visit www.volunteernorthtexas.org/VolunteerCenter.The address is Volunteer Center of North Texas, 2800 Live Oak St., Dallas, TX 75204. Alert them of shipments at acavanagh@volunteernorthtexas.org.

They will accept donations and recruit agencies and volunteers to distribute them to all of the local area FEMA refugee facilities, and see that they are utilized.

So, if you are struggling for a way to become involved in a big way, here is an option to redirect the anger into action.

If you want to help with my small group of 250 new friends, donations for those 100 children and 150 adults can be forwarded to Cross Bend Christian Church, 901 Cross Bend, Plano, TX 75023.

Good luck, let me know if you need help.

Brenda Lugannani

b.lugannani@comcast.net, Cell: 469-441-0944; Office: 972-519-1667; Fax: 972-519-1668. 5309 Brouette Ct., Plano, TX 75023.

(Note: To read previous entries in Kate's Collage, click on the headlines in the right-hand column.)



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