By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published September 29, 2005
Archdiocesan agencies, schools and churches are continuing to assist victims and evacuees of Hurricane Katrina on both a local and national level.
Over 20,000 evacuees from the Gulf Coast are said to be staying or relocating in Atlanta.
Marty Kraft, communications director for the Atlanta St. Vincent de Paul Society, said that the agency is expanding what they normally do and looking to provide assistance to evacuees on a long-term basis.
In addition to aiding those directly who come to the main office or to one of the 68 parish conferences, the Society has partnered with several other agencies in an effort to help as many people as possible.
Among those with whom SVdP has partnered are Traveler’s Aid, Hosea Feed the Hungry, Chamblee Methodist Church and Angel Flight.
Traveler’s Aid is providing temporary housing for those victims who fall outside of the FEMA qualifications. SVdP receives a list of the hotels/motels the victims are in, contacts the management and faxes forms for families to fill out according to their needs (ages, sizes, foods, household goods). SVdP volunteers fill the orders and Federal Express is delivering the packages for free.
Both Hosea Feed the Hungry and Chamblee Methodist Church are serving masses of people. SVdP is taking bulk items, such as water, toiletries, food and clothing, by the truckload to these two agencies.
SVdP has also partnered with Angel Flight, which is based out of Peachtree-DeKalb Airport. SVdP members take all first aid, pharmaceutical and medical items to Angel Flight to be directly transported to the Gulf Coast region.
Kraft said the Society is greatly in need of volunteers, particularly to sort through the many donations they have received and continue to receive on a daily basis. In addition, a special icon on the Society’s Web site, located at www.svdpatl.org, has been added in order to donate to Hurricane Katrina victims. The Society will update a list at least weekly, Kraft said, with specific needs the Society has each week. Kraft expects the need to continue for the next several months.
Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fairburn has also spearheaded a large effort to help Katrina victims. Nearly 30 students from Catholic schools in the Gulf Coast region have begun attending Our Lady of Mercy, according to chaplain Father Paul Burke. Father Burke said that the school community has been very proactive in helping those displaced by the hurricane. They have named their drive for funds, clothing and supplies “Operation Katrina.”
“So far, over $3,000 has been raised through dress-down days, bake sales, Mercy spirit bags, concession sales, a powder puff football game and other collections surrounding homecoming events,” Father Burke said. “We will continue our efforts in the days and months ahead.”
The school is currently accepting donations of non-perishable foods, furniture, bed linens, general household items, clothing, and car seats and strollers.
Our Lady of Mercy is also accepting financial donations all of which will be used to assist with rebuilding or relocation. Checks should be made to Our Lady of Mercy—Operation Katrina and sent to Operation Katrina, C/O Father Paul Burke, 861 Highway 279, Fairburn, GA 30213. For more information, call Father Burke at (770) 461-2202, ext. 416.
Catholic Social Services, which has assisted over 600 evacuee families as of Sept. 19, has aided approximately 40 families who are former archdiocesan, Catholic Charities or Catholic schools employees from the Gulf Coast region.
Although they are doing their best to help all those who ask for help, Joe Galvin, associate director of CSS, and Sandra Hollett, CSS director, are working directly with Catholic employees affected by Katrina. The Atlanta agency has served as a liaison, helping to get information to the affected dioceses that their employees are safe.
“We’re also just really trying to stabilize their situation, giving them rosaries, making sure they know where the nearest Catholic church is,” Galvin said. “These individuals are our ‘family.’”
Galvin said that he has been “amazed” by the incredible generosity shown by parishioners in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
“The outpouring has just been absolutely incredible. I’d say that in the first two weeks, half of the calls we received were from parishes and individuals asking how they could help,” he said.
Galvin said that for the long term, it is important to create a sense of normalcy for the people. He specifically pointed out the upcoming holidays in which “so much is tied to traditions.”
“I think the most important thing is that we show these people the sense of community that I know already exists in the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” he said. “We’re going to continue to encourage parishes to constantly be sending the message that we are welcoming you to our family.”
CSS continues to aid many who have been displaced by the hurricane and has a great need for telephone calling cards, grocery and gas gift cards, as well as non-perishable foods, diapers of all sizes, baby formula and furniture.
For a complete list of needs, visit the archdiocesan Web site at www.archatl.com.