Katrina: How You Can Help

Scott Simon takes a moment to tell listeners of the myriad of volunteer opportunities available for those who want to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The best way to help, according to many national organizations like the American Red Cross, is to give money.

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There's a yearning among many people in this country to reach out to those who've been uprooted by Hurricane Katrina. Many want to do more than simply send money; they want to send useful things. But national relief organizations say they do not have the means to accept such help. Ross Fraser is with the national food bank organization, America's Second Harvest.

Mr. ROSS FRASER (America's Second Harvest): Someone called and offered to give us two live cows. Someone else called and offered us 30 pigs. Someone else had a basement full of provisions left over from Y2K that he was finally ready to let go of. So there's been all kinds of offers to help us.

SIMON: Mr. Fraser says the urgency of the situation calls for cash. Most charitable organizations are using the money donated to transport and distribute already donated food from large manufacturers and supermarkets. But still, he says, some people want to roll up their sleeves and help in a more tangible way.

Mr. FRASER: If people want to volunteer, they should call their local food bank and ask how they can help. Food banks always use lots of volunteers to help sort food and pack boxes and keep food products clean. One of the reasons that financial donations are so much more efficient for us is that we are able to move about 20 pounds of groceries for every dollar donated.

SIMON: There are other ways to help locally. The American Bar Association is looking for lawyers to do pro bono work, to help with insurance claims, home repair contracts, wills and myriad of other legal issues. Temporary housing is in short supply. Many churches have become especially active in welcoming evacuees from the Gulf Coast. The Black Leadership Forum, the AFL-CIO and the fund-raising organization headed by former Presidents Bush and Clinton are urging everyone to donate supplies to local churches that are helping out the disaster. They need batteries, charcoal, shaving cream, eyeglass repair kits, flip-flop shoes, high chairs and many everyday household items. A full list of what and where to donate is available through the Bushclintonkatrinafund, all one word, .org Web site.

Some individuals have set up relief funds and charity auctions to rebuild the Gulf Coast: author John Grisham and his wife, Renee, the rapper Master P and actor Morgan Freeman among many others. It is only realistic to note that there are some sham groups who try to exploit generous people, so you can consult the Web site of the American Institute of Philanthropy which lists trustworthy charities and tells you where to report possible charity scams. And you can also come to our Web site at npr.org to see a list of trusted organizations that are providing help to those people whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. If you don't have a computer, you can pick up the phone and call FEMA at 1-800-440-6728 and they can direct you to a place to donate. And the American Red Cross is certainly happy to take your cash. You can call 1-800-HELP-NOW.

Twenty-two minutes before the hour.

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