Charitable Giving Rises in Katrina's Wake
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
Coming up, the Great Flood of 1927.
But first, Americans have responded to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina with an outpouring of generosity. So far individuals and corporations have already pledged so much money to help the victims that they are approaching the amount given after the September 11 attacks. NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports.
BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY reporting:
In the past decade, Dick Talley has rushed to 47 countries and all across the United States chasing hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and tsunamis and trying to pick up the pieces. Talley heads Texas Baptist Men, a non-profit group with a staff of three and a standing army of hundreds of volunteers who specialize in disaster relief. Before the levees broke, he says, his volunteers were on their way to Louisiana with 18-wheel trucks carrying supplies.
Mr. DICK TALLEY (Texas Baptist Men): We've been doing planning for several months knowing that this year was going to be a large hurricane season.
HAGERTY: They've sent 150 people in 11 units to Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Their main job is food. Each unit cooks 60,000 meals a day to be distributed by the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
Mr. TALLEY: But we also have what they call mud-out or clean-out units. We have shower units, chain-saw units, child-care units, communications units, laundry units. We meet several needs, but our primary focus is cooking.
HAGERTY: Talley says currently thousands of volunteers are being trained to pick up the work and more are calling in to donate money. Indeed, charities such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army have already received more than $200 million in pledges. That's not far from the $239 million that people gave in the first 10 days after 9/11. Most of the money from individuals came via the Internet. Corporations accounted for almost half of the largesse--most notably Wal-Mart, which pledged $15 million after former Presidents Bush and Clinton made an appeal for money.
Ms. MELISSA O'BRIEN (Wal-Mart): I think by far this is the largest cash donation we've given for one single incident.
HAGERTY: Melissa O'Brien is a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. She says 1,200 Wal-Mart trucks are carrying essentials like batteries and water to staging places in Louisiana.
Ms. O'BRIEN: We're in the process of setting up mini-Wal-Marts--they're mobile Wal-Marts that will be staging in certain areas where these disasters victims or refugees can look to us to provide some of these basic products such as toothbrushes, diapers and other basic needs that they're requiring right now.
HAGERTY: Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, says Americans are getting pretty good at responding to disasters. But this one provides a new twist.
Ms. STACY PALMER (Chronicle of Philanthropy): International relief groups are volunteering to help because they have expertise in dealing with this kind of disaster that some of the domestic relief agencies don't necessarily have.
HAGERTY: Such as running camps in places like Sudan, Thailand and the West Bank, where refugees are stuck for months or years. But not all international agencies are being tapped and many blame the White House. Richard Walden is president of Operation USA, which sends hygiene and medical supplies to crisis spots. He says he was furious when he saw the list of agencies on the FEMA Web site.
Mr. RICHARD WALDEN (Operation USA): It's a faith-based list plus Red Cross and Second Harvest. It ignores not only the secular agencies, but it ignores some of the best faith-based groups like World Vision, which is enormous.
HAGERTY: Twenty out of the 22 groups were religious and displayed third was Operation Blessing, a charity founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. FEMA says the list was not politically motivated and has now been expanded. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.