Not everyone has the means to travel to the survivors of
Hurricane Katrina and volunteer to hand out meals or survey the
damage. Locals who have already been or are planning to go describe
the desire to help not as a want, but as a need.
By Lori Stuenkel
Gilroy – Not everyone has the means to travel to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina and volunteer to hand out meals or survey the damage. Locals who have already been or are planning to go describe the desire to help not as a want, but as a need.
Kevin Conant, a Gilroy resident and San Jose firefighter, used up all his Thanksgiving vacation time this week to assess the needs of survivors in Southern Mississippi.
“This disaster provides an enormous opportunity for us to demonstrate our love and concern for our fellow man,” he wrote in an e-mail dispatch Thursday.
Lee Petersen was inspired by his father’s acts of volunteerism and wanted to give back.
“When you see what’s going on on TV … it pulls at you,” Peterson said Friday, as he waited for the phone call that would signal his deployment to Texas.
People from all walks of life are heeding the call to do what they can. Bernardette Arellano, a Gilroy resident and field office aid to U.S. Representative Mike Honda, D-San Jose, said she’s not in a position to donate financially, so she wants to donate elbow grease instead. She and sister Belen both signed up with the American Red Cross to work for one week wherever they are needed.
“We wanted to be able to do something,” Bernardette Arellano said. “I’ll feel really useful to be able to do anything, even fold towels in a shelter. You see all these disasters happening … overseas, and you’re not really able to do anything, but this is something that’s happening in the U.S.”
Having completed two four-hour training sessions this week, Arellano’s name will be put in a database along with those of thousands who have come forward in the days following Katrina. She provided a window of time in which she would like to be deployed, using her vacation, and will receive about 24 hours’ notice.
The sisters do not have emergency responder certifications, so they may be assigned to set up shelters, or hand out food or clothing, Bernardette said. They were told they can’t be sent to the same place, and could end up in Baton Rouge, Mississippi, or even Michigan – wherever there are survivors.
Even 28 years of emergency preparedness and response as a fire battalion chief could not prepare Conant for what he saw when he arrived in southern Mississippi last Sunday.
“My initial reaction was that a terrorist couldn’t have been more efficient at trying to destroy the lives of Americans,” he said in an interview from his Gilroy home Friday, after returning Thursday. “It’s huge, it’s just massive. … It looks like it was bombed with conventional bombs.”
In e-mailed photos and updates from the scene, Conant told of a 2,000-seat church in Gulfport that was reduced to a roof and some support beams. He saw the military setting up field hospitals in department store parking lots, where doctors treated hundreds and even performed minor surgery. Cars and boats were everywhere, he said, scattered as though they were a child’s toys. He heard from a disaster response team that the number of dead is well above what is being reported in the media.
Conant and two other volunteers with CityTeam Ministries were helping complete phase one of the group’s planned four-phase response, by determining the needs in the area.
The spirit of the people who remain there struck Conant as incredibly gracious and hospitable. On his last night there, residents of Bay St. Louis cooked and served his team a meal in their Second Street Shelter.
“These are people who lost all their earthly possessions,” he said. “They don’t know where their family is. They don’t know then they’re going to get electricity back. … they continued to pour out their thanks for us coming out to help them.”
Steven Maldonado, who returned Friday morning, agreed. A loss prevention manager for Home Depot’s Bay Area region, Maldonado visited stores in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. He saw Home Depot employees join other residents as they shopped at the stores for necessities such as water, powdered milk, and soup.
When the water is pumped from New Orleans in a few weeks, both Maldonado and Conant say they expect to return.
Petersen, on the other hand, is expecting a phone call at any moment, telling him to pack his bags. He has experience in the military, working with the California Department of Forestry, and completed the Red Cross training on Thursday.
“You’ve got Red Cross people who’ve been out there since this started and they need to be relieved,” Petersen said. “They’re probably dead on their feet right now.”
Another Gilroyan, who is attending Biola University in Southern California, completed his training on Sunday and is eager to help. He cleared the week away from classes with his professors and is working ahead of schedule so he won’t fall behind.
Daniel Walker had heard little about the hurricane’s destruction when classmates told him they were signing up to volunteer.
“I’m a Christian, and serving the community and loving all people, no matter who they are, is very important to me,” Walker said.
Donations are still pouring in to help those hit by Hurricane Katrina. Here are some places that are collecting money or supplies to help with relief. Other churches, schools, stores and organizations are running fundraisers or donation drives so check in with your local church, school, employer or places where you shop.
Where to donate for Hurricane relief
Bethany Community Church of God in Christ
Contact: Dyanne Hofstad 847-8745
The church youth group is collecting backpacks and school supplies for children who have been displaced by Katrina who will be housed by Catholic Charities in the San Francisco area.
St. Mary Catholic Parish
11 1st St., 847-5151
The church will be holding a second collection at all their masses Sept. 10 and 11 to benefit the Catholic Relief Fund towards hurricane relief.
South Valley Community Church
8095 Kelton Drive
Donations will go to the American Red Cross and/or Operation Blessings.
Antonio Del Buono
9300 Wren Ave.
Contact: Angie Wong, 848-5161
The Parents Club is coordinating a school-wide coin drive. All money will be donated to the American Red Cross.
Pacific West Christian Academy
Parents and children are welcome to bring donations to the school’s classrooms or drop them off at the office. The donations will go to World Vision and the Association of Christian Schools International
Las Animas Elementary
8450 Wren Ave.
Contact: Cathy Magana, 842-6414
The donation drive kicks off Sept. 12 with the fifth-grade students leading the way by decorating posters and coffee cans for the collection. All proceeds go to the American Red Cross.
The school is selling Rods Trods T-shirts and sweatshirts at a reduce price with proceeds going to the Red Cross.
South Valley Junior High
Contact: Liz or Julia, 847-2828
The Associated Student Body and the cheerleaders are coordinating a one-week fundraising effort from Sept. 9 – Sept. 16. Students hope to raise $1,000 which will be divided between the American Red Cross and a school district in need in the disaster area.
7011 Camino Arroyo
Customers can add a few dollars to their purchase at the local electronics store through Sept. 30. The Best Buy Children’s Foundation will match donations up to $2 million and will donate all proceeds to the American Red Cross.
905 1st St., 842-6446
The Safeway Foundation delivered an initial check of $100,000 to the American Red Cross and will collect money in local stores at each check stand.
Nob Hill Foods
777 1st St., 847-4857
Donations made at the check stand will go to the American Red Cross.
Collecting for the Salvation Army.
7900 Arroyo Circle
Gilroy, CA 95021, 848-8161
PETCO Foundation will be running their “Round Up” fundraiser to benefit pets lost in the hurricane until Sept. 11. Donations can also be made online at www.petco.com.
8767 San Ysidro Ave., 846-2844
Morgan Hill PETCO
313 Vineyard Town Center Way
Santa Clara Valley Chapter of American Red Cross
2731 North First St.
San Jose, CA 95134-2029
577-2049 or 1-800-HELP-NOW
AAA of Northern California will match employee and member donations. Donations will go to the Red Cross.
Gilroy AAA Office
1395 First St.
847-2300 or online at www.csaa.com
Send checks marked “disaster relief” to:
PO Box 4857
Jackson, MS 39296-4857
United Way of Silicon Valley is collecting money for long-term recovery.
Send checks marked “Hurricane Katrina Fund” to: United Way of America
P.O. Box 630568
Baltimore, MD 21263-0568
Gilroy Elks Lodge
The Benevolent and the Protective Order of Elks of the U.S.A. has established a Hurricane Katrina Elks Disaster Relief Fund.
Checks made out to Gilroy Elks and marked Hurricane Katrina may be sent to:
2765 Hecker Pass Road
Gilroy, CA 95020, Contact: 842-9397
Classic Car Raffle
16725 Condit Road
Morgan Hill, Contact: 779-4511
Alpine RV is raffling off a 1960 Buick LeSabre. Raffle tickets are $20 each and will be available throughout the month of September. Proceeds will go to the American Red Cross or another national disaster relief organization.
Rhapsody & Wine … An Afternoon of Musical Memories
1480 East Main Ave. Morgan Hill, 95037
Sunday, Sept. 11
1 pm – 5 pm
The Fabulous Flapper dancers will perform, with proceeds benefiting the Young at Heart Project and the American Red Cross hurricane efforts.
Call 779-6337 for more information or visit www.Fabulousflappers.org.
South Valley Community Church
8095 Kelton Drive, Gilroy, 95020
Friday, Sept. 16 at 6pm
The church youth group hopes to raise $3,000 for the American Red Cross or Operation Blessing with a youth rock concert featuring five local bands.
For more information, call 848-2363
Kids Ride for Kids of Katrina
3050 Hecker Pass Hwy
The Bonfante Harvest Ride offers children a chance to ride their bikes inside the amusement park while raising money for victims of the hurricane by collecting pledges.
Call 408-682-4700 or visit www.bonfanteride.com for more information.
A caution to consumers
– Consumers should be aware of possible giving scams in the wake of any disaster. California’s Attorney General Bill Lockyer offered suggestions to people looking to donate to hurricane relief that will help them ensure their donations get to where they are needed.
– Stick with established charities. Visit www.ag.ca.gov/charities or www.give.org for more information on charities.
– Take action on your own rather than responding to solicitations.
-Beware of “copycat” names that sound like reputable charities.
– Do not give through e-mail solicitations.