Some Samaritans Listening as Charities Plead for Cash, Not Goods
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Heeding the call of charities to send money - not food or clothes - Americans are opening their wallets for flood victims in the Midwest.
But the final expenditure probably won’t top the outpouring to victims of Hurricane Andrew last year, according to some of the nation’s largest disaster relief charities.
″A lot of people think this is much bigger than Hurricane Andrew because it covers such a big geographic area, but it is in fact smaller in terms of its effect,″ said Susan Pyle of the American Red Cross.
Still, Americans are reaching deep into their pockets.
Concerts have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the bedraggled and weary in the nine flooded states. People are giving up their vacations to help. And churches are sending money and volunteers to clean up, sandbag and rebuild.
So far, the Red Cross has raised $15.8 million for flood relief and estimates it will spend between $15 million and $20 million, Pyle said. The Red Cross has spent $83.7 million helping victims of Andrew, she said.
Red Cross workers assisted more than 68,000 families after the hurricane, compared to an estimated 20,000 in the Midwest, according to Pyle. The charity ran 488 shelters for Andrew victims, 122 for flood survivors.
The Salvation Army has collected more than $6 million for flood assistance and estimates it will spend about $25 million in the end, said Col. Leon Ferraez, a spokesman. It spent $30 million helping after Andrew, he said.
With more than 14,000 volunteers working the flood zones day and night, Ferraez said the Salvation Army still needs more people.
″There’s a tremendous need for volunteers, to work in disaster assistance centers, to serve meals, to prepare meals,″ he said.
As of last week, the Red Cross had served a total of 1.6 million meals to flood victims and sheltered about 18,000 of them. The Salvation Army has served more than 500,000 meals and housed 5,200 people, Ferraez said.
Church World Service, the charitable arm of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., has sent flood shelters more than 6,200 blankets and 1,730 recovery kits, which include food, kitchen utensils and cleaning materials.
Catholic Charities has sent $10,000 apiece to eight Midwestern dioceses for flood victims and expects to send much more, said Jane Gallagher, a spokeswoman for the New York-based organization.
″Also, the Catholic bishops have issued a memorandum to all the bishops asking that across the country they hold some kind of special collection,″ she said.
Some donations are being channeled through more worldly organizations - including the government.
The Office of Personnel Management - the government’s human resources department - is allowing federal workers to help flood victims through deductions from their paychecks, which will be sent to charities.
The country music boomtown of Branson, Mo., was the scene of a flood relief telethon that raised about $800,000. Viewers were treated to entertainment by Wayne Newton, Ray Stevens, Eddie Rabbitt, Mickey Gilley, Bob Hope and others.
They also heard from billionaire Ross Perot. ″We really can’t sit around anymore and wait for our government to pamper us,″ he said. ″We as Americans have to help ourselves.″
Two flood relief concerts planned last week in St. Louis had to be canceled after a levee break on the Missouri River closed a highway. One show was to feature John Mellencamp and Bob Dylan; the other, Kenny Rogers and George Jones. The organizers asked that people consider their $10 tickets donations.
Scores of people are giving up their vacations to help flood victims - such as a group from North Carolina that traveled to Hardin, Ill., to distribute food last week.
And The Travelers, a Hartford, Conn., insurance company, is allowing employees in six Midwestern field offices to donate one vacation day for flood relief, with the company providing a $200 contribution for each day pledged.