Charles County leaders have reactivated a disaster relief fund to help Gulf Coast evacuees who have relocated to the area in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

On Thursday, officials announced that the county has donated $25,000 to the fund, which was set up after the La Plata tornado in 2002.

The money will help families secure food, clothing and housing. At the end of last week, Charles public schools had enrolled 26 students who are staying with relatives and family friends in the area after fleeing the hurricane and the flooding it caused.

"So many people want to do things and they are not sure how they can help. This is a way to tell people where to go for help or how to help," said Commissioner Edith J. Patterson (D-Pomfret).

Charles County also has offered to send emergency crews to the affected areas. The emergency services director and chief of animal control already have been dispatched, going to Jackson, Miss.

"We're trying to get geared up and prepared to help here as well as there," Commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D) said late last week. "We know from the tornado that it's like a shell shock you wouldn't believe."

The Social Services Department has set up a hotline -- 301-392-6888 -- for evacuees seeking help, including counseling.

Donations can be made to the Charles County Disaster Relief Fund, County Government Building, PO Box 2150, La Plata, Md. 20646