Weeks after the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, residents of Indiana continue to open their wallets and homes to those who've lost everything in the wake of the country's largest natural disaster. But despite the generosity of so many Hoosiers, more is needed.
On Tuesday, students from Harshman Middle School formed a human chain along 10th Street from their school to Red Cross headquarters. The students then passed a check representing the money they had raised. The students delivered $3,720 for Red Cross relief efforts. This is one of the many examples of ongoing efforts by Hoosiers to help aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The American Red Cross continues this week to provide much needed physical, medical and emotional assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina now scattered throughout the United States in 700 shelters.
Here in Indiana, the local Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis has already met with over 500 displaced families to assess individual family needs and provide emergency assistance. In addition to providing for the physical needs of these families, they are also providing counseling by specially trained mental health professionals to help these individuals deal with their losses.
The Indiana State Fairgrounds continues to serve as a temporary shelter here in Indianapolis, with nearly 100 individuals still receiving safe, temporary housing and all other services the Red Cross provides.
In addition to its shelter, the Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis is one of eight National Response Centers answering calls from the national Red Cross hotline, 866-GETINFO. This hotline is used to put individuals affected by Hurricane Katrina and other disasters in touch with the resources they need, including Red Cross shelter locations, search and rescue and FEMA. Since Aug. 29, local volunteers have logged nearly 2,000 hours answering more than 6,000 calls.
All Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations. And while the generosity of the American people is making the current efforts of the Red Cross possible, this is the largest single disaster response in the history of the Red Cross, and the organization is still in need of donations of time and money.
More than 250 local volunteers have participated in the relief efforts taking place in the Indianapolis area, but nationally, the Red Cross is seeking an additional 40,000 volunteers willing and able to help those affected by the hurricane.
Individuals who are able to commit 10 to 30 days will receive training before being dispatched to areas where they are needed throughout the country. For more information on this volunteer recruitment, contact the Indianapolis Red Cross at 317-684-1441.
Donating money to the Red Cross continues to be the fastest and most effective way to provide much needed assistance to the hurricane victims. The Red Cross continues to ask for donations that will enable the organization to provide food, counseling and other assistance to those in need.
Contributions for disaster relief efforts can be mailed to the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis at 441 E. 10th St., Indianapolis, 46202-3338; made online at www.indyredcross.org; or by calling 317-684-1441.
In addition, the Mayor's Action Center is helping to provide housing here in Indianapolis for those displaced by the hurricane. If you are able to provide an apartment or home for families in need, call 317-926-HELP.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana is also offering help to victims of Hurricane Katrina that are currently in Indiana. The agency will provide free family planning and emergency contraceptive services to Katrina victims.
Planned Parenthood has 39 health centers across the state ready and able to assist Gulf Coast residents who have traveled to Indiana in the wake of the hurricane. To contact the nearest Planned Parenthood health center, call 1-800-230-PLAN, or visit www.ppin.org.
"This is a time for us to pull together to help our fellow citizens whose lives have been forever changed by Hurricane Katrina," stated Liz Carroll, vice president of patient services at Planned Parenthood of Indiana. "We recognize that many residents of the areas devastated by Katrina may have families living in our state or are living in shelters here. We're ready to help them."
An estimated 2,300 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina are already in Indiana. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) urges all these individuals to register with the department to ensure they receive proper assistance.
"Indiana is happy to provide a home for victims of Katrina," said J. Eric Dietz, IDHS executive director. "These individuals have experienced a great deal in the last week. We want to do what we can to show true 'Hoosier hospitality' and aid them in their recovery process."
By registering with IDHS, the state of Indiana can better aid Katrina evacuees in meeting housing, health care and educational needs. To register, individuals affected by Katrina in Indiana can call 866-679-4631 or visit www.indianadisasterhelp.org. All Katrina evacuees, whether in a shelter or residing with relatives in Indiana, should register to receive assistance.
Representatives from all agencies and organizations aiding hurricane victims continue to urge Indiana citizens not to self-deploy, but rather work through any number of already established emergency response efforts.
"We want to remind citizens and organizations not to purposely travel to the areas affected by Katrina to transport people to Indiana," said Phil Roberts, IDHS division of emergency response director. "Katrina evacuees are welcome in Indiana but disaster relief organizations are best equipped to deal with matters such as this."
Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the state's efforts to provide aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina should contact INVOAD at www.invoad.org or at 866-909-4673.