Hurricane Relief

Help From Area Comes in All Forms

Saturday, September 3, 2005

From kids collecting quarters and backpacks to schools offering free tuition and books to one woman offering her home to the suddenly homeless, Washington area residents are reaching out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Teen Plans Care Packages for Kids

With other relief efforts focused on raising money, Jackie Kantor, 14, wanted to focus on something that would bring immediate relief and perhaps a bit of joy to kids displaced by Katrina. So she and her family came up with "Project Backpack." They are hoping to collect 1,000 backpacks filled with "kid stuff" -- school supplies, small toys, snacks -- to deliver to children displaced by the hurricane. The kids "have to have some joy, have to have some comfort, and I thought giving kids something that could entertain them would help make them feel like they didn't lose everything," said Jackie, who is a freshman at Walt Whitman High School. The packs can be dropped off at the school, 7100 Whittier Blvd., Bethesda, Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information should be available on a Web site -- http://www.projectbackpack.org -- the family hopes to launch today.

Homes Offered to Refugees

Ten listings in the past two days appeared in the Washington area temporary housing section of http://www.craigslist.org , including one with the subject line "1br - HELP for Katrina's wrath," posted on Thursday. "I have a one bedroom empty, live in a big home. . . . I am on disability and do not have much money to offer, but I have a room anything I have to help I will do it ! I WILL HELP ANYONE WHO NEEDS A PLACE. . . . GOD BLESS EVERYONE !"

Gwen Hayes, 37, of Falls Church, who posted the listing, said she wants to help any way she can. She got two brief responses: One from a family of three that had lost everything; another from a single person looking for housing for one month. The e-mails did not contain more specific information, so she e-mailed back. She said her fear is that people would respond to her posting who weren't refugees from the hurricane.

"I don't want to be naive," she said. "I just want to open up my heart."

Universities Welcome Scattered Students

Dozens of schools and colleges have opened their doors and campuses to displaced students. Catholic, George Mason and Marymount universities and the University of the District of Columbia are among the those offering assistance. Both Georgetown University's Law Center and American University's Washington College of Law are offering space to students from Tulane and Loyola university law schools in New Orleans. Sweet Briar College in Central Virginia will enroll eligible female undergraduate students for the 2005 fall semester tuition-free. Howard University has processed 51 applications from many of New Orleans's historically black colleges, including Dillard and Xavier universities, and expects more, Howard President H. Patrick Swygert said in a statement. Students have been asked to share space to make room for the additional students.

Every Coin Counts

Thousands of students across the area are doing what they can -- from selling doughnuts to collecting coins -- to raise money for hurricane relief. At Whetstone Elementary in Gaithersburg, Principal Aara Davis said students have launched a coin drive and are hoping to surpass the $1,500 they raised for tsunami relief this year. Every classroom at the 650-student campus now has a hurricane relief container for the kids' donations. All funds will be donated to the American Red Cross.

At Northwood High School in Silver Spring, in addition to collecting money for the relief efforts, students are selling pizza and doughnuts to gather funds. And they're collecting nonperishable food to donate to a food bank to help those in New Orleans and elsewhere.

"Most of the kids know someone who has been to the city or someone who lives in the city, so that makes it very personal to them,'' said Principal Henry R. Johnson, who helped kick off the drive Wednesday. Compiled from reports by staff writers Lori Aratani and Michael Alison Chandler.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company