Residents of Indiana are joining millions of other Americans in doing whatever they can to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane victim Linda Johnson is one of the residents staying at the Red Cross shelter at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Gov. Mitch Daniels signed Executive Order 05-24 last week, "Operation Hoosier Relief," which authorizes and establishes mobile support units to respond to requests for assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The first of these units deployed from Indiana on Saturday.
"City, county or state lines cannot serve as a barrier during times of crisis," Daniels said. "The pictures of devastation we have viewed from the Gulf Coast more than justify why we in Indiana must step up to help our fellow Americans."
Operation Hoosier Relief team members will initially travel to DeSoto County, Mississippi, before entering the disaster area. After entering the area, they will establish "Camp Indiana" and begin operations as directed by Mississippi's Emergency Operations Center.
The state of Indiana plans to initially send 184 individuals from six state agencies, making Operation Hoosier Relief the largest deployment ever by the state of Indiana. After arriving, team members will further assess if there are additional resources Indiana may provide. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is overseeing the Operation Hoosier Relief project.
"IDHS and all the state agencies involved in Operation Hoosier Relief recognize the daunting tasks facing the states affected by Hurricane Katrina and want to offer our support," said J. Eric Dietz, IDHS executive director. "A destructive event like a hurricane requires teamwork to effectively respond and recover. Through Operation Hoosier Relief, we are bringing together our team to aid another state in need."
Indianapolis has already opened its doors to hundreds of hurricane victims. The local chapter of the American Red Cross has set up a shelter at the State Fairgrounds to house up to 500.
Seven buses from Calvary Temple of Indianapolis drove to Baton Rouge last week and picked up 300 hurricane survivors who are now receiving temporary housing and much-needed relief at the fairgrounds.
But officials of Indiana state government are asking that Hoosiers not "self-deploy" in their efforts to help.
"Every day members of public safety and first responder organizations wake up with one mission in mind: securing the safety and well-being of others. So, their desire to help the victims of Katrina is completely understandable," Dietz said. "However, at the request of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, we are issuing the request not to self-deploy personnel or equipment from these agencies."
IDHS has requested that Hoosiers interested in aiding victims of Hurricane Katrina consider a financial contribution to a disaster relief organization.
How you can help
The American Red Cross continues to be the lead agency in providing relief to disaster victims. To make a financial donation or to become a volunteer, contact the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis at 317-684-1441 or www.redcross-indy.org.
Former U.S. Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton are extending the work and partnership that was created in response to the tsunami earlier this year. The Bush Clinton Katrina Fund will serve as an umbrella organization for the three states hit hardest by Katrina: Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. All monies collected will go directly to the governors of these states to assist in the long-term recovery plans for the states. Donations are being accepted at www.bushclintonkatrinafund.org.
The Humane Society has also launched a massive relief effort to rescue animals and assist their caregivers in the disaster areas. Trained Disaster Animal Response Teams are already in the affected areas coordinating animal rescue. Emergency contributions are being accepted at www.hsus.org.
Habitat for Humanity has created a link to its Web site www.habitat.org for donations that will be used to repair and build homes and lives damaged by the hurricane, particularly for low-income families and those who did not have insurance to cover their losses. To volunteer your time or resources and help Habitat for Humanity build much needed homes in the affected states call 219-924-6935.
The Salvation Army is accepting financial donations via credit card and checks. Checks should be made out to the Salvation Army with "Hurricane Katrina" in the memo. Send checks to the Salvation Army, 3100 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208. To donate using credit cards call toll-free 800-725-2769 (SAL-ARMY) or visit www.salvationarmyusa.org.
To get a complete listing of volunteer organizations involved in disaster relief for the hurricane victims visit the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster at www.nvoad.org.