Some food is on the way, but the money is not.
Still, there seems to be plenty of desire to help thousands of Central American immigrants who have been hit by two recent misfortunes: the condemnation of an apartment building that displaced 20 families and the bankruptcy of Latin Investment Corp., which has millions of dollars in uninsured deposits that belong to several thousand people.
A 14-year-old Salvadoran girl who is the vice president of a toy company flew to Washington last week to donate $7,000 worth of her company's toys. And the Kennedy Center, which is preparing to stage a bilingual play called "Bocon" ("Big Mouth"), involving an immigrant's mythical journey to this country, intends to donate as many as 600 tickets to children affected by these crises.
A property management service has offered four apartments for the residents displaced from the apartment building, said Rita Soler-Ossolinski, acting director of the Mayor's Office of Latino Affairs.
The Junior League, a civic group, has directed food donations from Bell South Communications to the Wilson Center in Adams-Morgan, which has served as the gathering point for the worried depositors in Latin Investment Corp. Some donations have come in from Trinity College in the District, said Elaine Grant, of the Wilson Center.
Donations to meet long-term needs have been slow in coming, Grant said.
"Frankly, I'm a little disappointed so far," she said. "We had hoped the community would be more responsive, but we understand, with the time of year."
In an attempt to spur donations, members of the Central American Refugee Committee will be holding a food drive today at Sacred Heart Church, 16th Street and Park Road NW.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., volunteers will be accepting food, especially such staples as beans, rice, sugar, oil and corn flour.
The church will distribute the collected food tomorrow.
"This is a crisis here," said Omar Centurion, a member of the refugee committee. "These people don't have anything."
The trouble began Nov. 29, when Latin Investment, a firm that had been offering banking services to Spanish-speaking people but did not have a bank charter or deposit insurance, closed amid financial difficulties.
This week, it was learned that the Securities and Exchange Commission had begun an investigation into Latin Investment's activities. The commission recently subpoenaed records from two area institutions, Riggs National Bank and Perpetual Savings Bank, relating to Latin Investment.
It soon became apparent that Latin Investment's closing would affect thousands of people who had entrusted millions to the institution.
Then a new crisis.
Eight days after Latin Investment closed, city officials moved to condemn an apartment building at 1419 Columbia Rd. NW, declaring the building "an unsafe and dangerous environment."
More than 100 residents, most of whom are Hispanic immigrants and many of whom had their savings tied up in Latin Investment, found themselves without housing.
Three days later, the community's trouble was aggravated when a second firm, Casa Latinoamerica de Inversiones (Latin American House of Investments) closed people's access to its accounts.
As a team of lawyers began moves this week to recover customers' savings by forcing Latin Investment into bankruptcy, depositors faced the possibility that it would be months before they see any of their money.
Meanwhile, the strain on community service agencies, such as the Wilson Center, began to take its toll. Grant said her agency has exhausted its operating money because of the extra resources and labor needed to register the depositors who have claims to money.
Those interested in donating food and money can call the Wilson Center at 202-667-0417, or go to its offices at 2401 15th St. NW.
Donations of toys and clothing can go to the Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs, in the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, 14th and U streets NW. The office's phone number is 202-939-8765.