Lend a helping hand to Hurricane Katrina victims

Daily Sundial

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Since Hurricane Katrina first made landfall, and caused destruction to most of the Gulf Coast, most Americans have seen several images of human suffering and anguish. Now, is the time for people all over the world to demonstrate their kindness by donating money to Hurricane Katrina victims.

Congress approved $62 billion for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and donations have reached more than $700 million. Unfortunately, according to Red Cross spokesperson Sheila Graham, her organization alone, is expecting to need at least one billion dollars. She said although government funds are being allocated, it is a much longer process for this money to reach those in need of it most right now.

Even CSUN joined the fundraising action, but with so many people collecting money and goods for different causes, it can be difficult to decide how, what, and where to give donations.

Although the first pleas of help received via television waves were heartfelt pleas for food and water, with evacuees spread out to 675 shelters throughout 23 states, it is becoming more and more difficult to ship out donated supplies to hurricane victims.

Organization after organization will specifically ask for money, because of its portability, and its flexible use. If and when you donate, try to put it on a credit card or write a check.

As I mentioned already, the Red Cross is one of the most reputable charity organizations to donate to, but they are definitely not the only way to go. First off, you have to make sure you donate to an organization that gives more than 60 percent of their budget to program services. There are a lot of celebrity backed groups that you may want to give to, but sometimes, the spokesperson is not in charge of the actual funds process, so be aware. Do the research so you know where your money is going. Luckily there are great websites like www.networkforgood.org and established groups like the American Philanthropy Institute, which have done all the homework for you, and will set you up with a group that works best for you.

Your next step is to find the organization that is addressing the needs you are most concerned with.

There is a huge pet rescue effort in the Gulf Coast. There are more than 50,000 pets with no homes. Groups like the Humane Society, www.hsus.org and the Best Friends Animal Society, have specifically put all their efforts to rescue these animals, clean them up, vaccinate them to heal them from the tremendous exposure to toxins and find them homes. For all the animal lovers, adopting a Gulf Coast pet, is a different way of contributing and helping in a very personal way.

Don’t feel bad if your pocketbook can’t spare any cash. Become proactive and donate your time. There are several shelters in Los Angeles County that have taken in Katrina victims, and could use help. The Dream Center, in Echo Park, is one group that has really come through for Gulf Coast residents who are trying to start a new life.

Long after the TV cameras leave the New Orleans and Mississippi coasts, thousand of people who have lost lifetimes worth of work and memories will be in need of our help to start over. During this time of need, give what you can, when you can.

Connie Llanos can be reached at spotlight@sundial.csun.edu.