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Friday, March 03, 2006

Taking matters into their own hands

Charlotte Huntley’s cover story this week on Calvary Community Church’s Project Nehemiah to help victims of Hurricane Katrina stands in stark contrast to two news items from the past week:
Item No. 1: The Washington Post has been tracking money raised for Katrina relief by private charities and reports that roughly two-thirds of the $3.27 billion raised by private non-profit groups has been spent, leaving less than $1 billion dollars left. The full cost of recovery will likely be much more.

“There are many, many needs that the federal government cannot cover,” Don Powell, coordinator of the Gulf’s longterm recovery, told the Post.

And the line between what the government pays for and what charities will pay for remains blurred.
Item No. 2: An Associated Press story reported that Red Cross had been warned years before Hurricane Katrina hit to resolve its internal disputes or risk a repeat of the problems that plagued the Sept. 11, 2001 relief efforts

The U.S. Senate on Monday released thousands of pages of Red Cross e-mail, corporate documents and whistleblower complaints that painted a picture of an organization whose mammoth structure contributed to the charity’s uneven response to Katrina.

Following Sept. 11, Red Cross CEO Bernardine Healy resigned amid charges that the organization had mismanaged Sept. 11 donations. At the time, Red Cross board member Bill George warned Red Cross chairman David McLaughlin to resolve disputes within the organization, according to the released documents.

But four years later, the next CEO, Marsha Evans, would also resign following Katrina, citing board friction.
The Red Cross issued a statement saying they would fully cooperate with the Senate committee’s review.

It all paints a pretty dismal picture. Money’s running out. The government is uncertain of its responsibility in the effort. The nation’s largest relief agency, the Red Cross, stumbled in executing it’s primary mission.

If the residents of the Gulf Coast lost hope in the days following Hurricane Katrina, what can they look ahead to some six months later?

I’m just glad nobody told the folks at Calvary Community Church how difficult this whole relief and reconstruction business is.
Instead, this group put their heads together, figured out a way they could help, lined up their pickups and travel trailers and headed south.

In many cases it’s true that the big jobs require big organizations. But I remain disheartened that the disaster along the Gulf Coast—which had been predicted and anticipated for years, by the way—had been so poorly managed.
But small groups of volunteers, like these from Walworth County, have accomplished something for many that the largest of organizations have been unable to do.

They've given people a chance to get on with their lives.


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