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Organizations aid evacuees

Nina Harrison

Many organizations and individuals in north Georgia are working very hard to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The St. Vincent de Paul Society is one such organization. The Society's members have come together to plan long-term support goals that will help these displaced individuals and families rebuild their lives. In fact, many of those affected by the disaster will be displaced for months if not permanently, having to build new lives in new cities. Baton Rouge, Houston, Dallas and Atlanta are among the cities that are challenged by the hurricane's aftermath.

Here in Atlanta, the Society's Atlanta Council and many parish-based Conferences are helping victims that arrive at our doors. We provide them with food, clothing, toiletries, gas vouchers, and more. We also refer them to other agencies that will provide shelter and other needs.

Specifically, the Society is working with Travelers Aid, Chamblee Methodist Church, Angel Flight, and Hosea Feed the Hungry. Travelers Aid provides victims with temporary housing. Hosea Feed the Hungry and the Chamblee Methodist Church are serving meals to large numbers of people. Angel Flight, based at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport, is transporting first-aid, medical and pharmaceutical supplies to Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The Atlanta Council has been the recipient of incredible generosity from other Society Councils in Columbus, Ohio, Jackson, Mich., and Lexington and Louisville, Ky. Recently, we received four 53-foot trucks loaded with boxes and bags of donated items. These donations include not only clothing but vacuum cleaners, fans, PCs and printers. We have unloaded about 160,000 pounds of items, not including increased donations at our bins and thrift stores. We have more shipments coming from Louisville, Ky., Johnstown and Philadelphia, Penn., and Evansville, Ind.

The Atlanta Council is also working very closely with our St. Louis National Office, and the Councils of Baton Rouge, Houston and Dallas.

We have a list of the local hotels housing the Katrina evacuees. We are in contact with the hotel managers who have been cooperative in allowing us to fax them a special needs list form. The evacuees complete this form by listing the specific items they need. The completed form is then faxed back to the Atlanta Council, where orders are filled and labeled by volunteers. FedEx has partnered with the Atlanta Council by transporting the packages to each hotel for free.

As you can tell, our Katrina relief efforts require a lot of volunteer power. If you would like to volunteer or make a donation, please call the Atlanta Council at 770-458-5415.

Although the challenges of Katrina seem overwhelming, the St. Vincent de Paul Society knows a formula that will make a difference. This formula has worked for over 100 years. The formula is simply to Change Lives & One At A Time. And, it goes without saying, pray.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Nina Harrison of St. Vincent de Paul.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.