Local organizations offer hurricane help

Grace Dobush

Local charities and churches are pouring out relief in the form of manpower and money to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The American Red Cross’ Summit County Chapter has sent six volunteers from Portage and Summit counties, and a seventh is leaving this weekend to join the thousands of Red Cross volunteers already in the areas struck by the hurricane. About two dozen area volunteers are on standby.

Public Relations Director Jackie Zavodney said the disaster inspired a turnout of volunteers comparable with Sept. 11, 2001. In the case of the tsunami last December, most people calling wanted to donate money because the affected area was so far away. But in the aftermath of Katrina, people are walking in off the street, wanting to volunteer their time and money.

Anyone who wants to volunteer with the Red Cross should be aware there is a three-week commitment for the assignment, and before a volunteer can start working, he or she must attend an orientation class — designed to open volunteers’ eyes to the realities of disaster relief — and then specialize in a specific type of aid.

The Red Cross volunteers from Portage and Summit counties are working in areas from mental health and nursing to staffing and shelter care.

Zavodney stressed that the Red Cross is not accepting donations of clothing and food. The logistics of storing them are too difficult because of the level of destruction. Donations of money are more useful.

“I know everyone wants to do more than that,” she said, “but the best way is to send the money down there to get them back on their feet.”

Some local churches are taking part in the efforts to raise money for people affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The United Methodist Church of Kent is going to make an appeal to the congregation Sunday and collect donations for UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Every penny of donations will go toward aiding those affected by the hurricane. UMCOR is also taking donations of cleaning supplies.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent expects to take part in the Gulf Coast Relief Fund started this week by the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is encouraging parishes to hold special collections this weekend. Catholic Charities USA volunteers are already in the areas affected by the hurricane, and local collections will go directly to the organization.

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, part of the America’s Second Harvest network, is in “disaster response mode,” working to help sister food banks hit by the hurricane.

Communications coordinator Erin Deegan said those wanting to help hurricane victims should donate to America’s Second Harvest directly. But the food bank is also prepared to help people affected by flooding in the Akron-Canton area.

Contact public affairs reporter Grace Dobush at [email protected].