The basement of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church was bustling last week as the Rev. Ronald E. Braxton and his members prepared to ship exactly 14,400 pounds of food, water and other items to storm-ravaged Louisiana.
"The plane can only hold 14,400 pounds and we have collected more than 40,000 pounds," said Braxton, who stood between a large scale and an even larger tractor-trailer parked in front of his church in downtown Washington.
While officials from the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other organizations are providing tons of items to Hurricane Katrina victims, Braxton said AME church officials for Louisiana and Mississippi were among the many charitable and religious groups that have issued a call for help.
"We wanted to give people in the downtown community a chance to do something hands-on," he said.
Braxton said Independence Air volunteered to fly the items to Baton Rouge free of charge. But because the church collected so much, Jorge Gomez, an independent trucker, volunteered to drive his tractor-trailer to Louisiana with a second load of donated items.
Standing in the church's fellowship hall -- where food, water and other items lined the walls -- Braxton said religious organizations of various denominations and several businesses from across the city have donated goods.
As he worked to load items, parishioner Adisa Aarons, 18, said, "This is a great opportunity to help the less fortunate."