Hearts and Wallets Open for Victims

Times Staff Writer

From a few pennies and dimes to one $10,000 check, Angelenos dug deep into their piggy banks, wallets and checkbooks during a fundraising drive at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

“I heard it on the radio, and I felt compelled,” said John Ogg, a Harbor City longshoreman who drove into the stadium parking lot on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with his girlfriend, Michelle Schroeder.

The couple handed over two $100 checks to the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles. “These people need help, and it’s the least I can do,” Ogg said.

The stadium was the site of one of four drive-through fund-raisers sponsored by the Red Cross in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. More than 1,000 people drove -- some in beat-up sedans, others in luxury sports cars -- biked, walked and even rolled up in wheelchairs to make their donations.


By the end of the day, the Red Cross had collected more than $100,000, spokesman Nick Samaniego said.

That success is being mirrored across the nation as telethons and other efforts raise money to help the victims of Katrina’s devastation along the Gulf Coast, which has left hundreds dead and countless more hungry, injured and homeless.

“All of our phones, our website are overloaded,” said H.T. Linke, another Red Cross spokesman. “The outpouring of generosity has just been overwhelming.”

But even as the contributions flowed in, disaster-relief organizations are struggling to reach the victims because of logistical problems.

At the port of Los Angeles in Wilmington, a truckload of donated hygiene supplies is sitting in a warehouse and probably won’t be shipped out to the ravaged areas until early next week, when water has subsided, said Richard Walden, president and chief executive of Operation USA, a disaster-relief organization based in Los Angeles.

“There are no roads,” said Walden, whose organization has collected $20,000 to $30,000 in donations. “Cellphones and land lines are mostly down.”

The Salvation Army, which has set up 55 “canteens,” or mobile feeding units for 500,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, found it impossible at times to coordinate its personnel in some of the worst-hit areas.

“We’re trying to work under some very difficult circumstances,” said Maj. Dalton Cunningham, who is in charge of the Salvation Army’s relief efforts for those states. “Right now, we’ve got 200 people trapped in our New Orleans building.... They’re running out of food.


“We just got back from Biloxi ... and I was looking for where our building was, and I couldn’t find it. It was just rubble everywhere.”

Someone eventually told him: “You’re standing on it.”

In a 24-hour period Tuesday, the Red Cross’ nationwide toll-free number received more than 100,000 calls -- more than what its call center received after the tsunami in southern Asia in December, and even more than during the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The donations, Linke said, are helping to pay for 230 emergency shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi housing more than 70,000 people forced from their homes.

Organizations are collecting record amounts. The Red Cross has reported collecting more than $20 million in nationwide donations for Katrina victims. The Salvation Army has collected more than $13 million, including a $1-million contribution from Wal-Mart and $10 million from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation.


“That’s an unprecedented number this early for any disaster,” Cunningham said. “The enormity of this disaster is greater than 9/11 or the tsunami.”



How to help


The following agencies are among those providing assistance to hurricane victims:

* American Red Cross, (800) HELP NOW [435-7669] English, (800) 257-7575 Spanish

* America’s Second Harvest, (800) 771-2303

* Adventist Community Services, (800) 381-7171


* Catholic Charities USA, Hurricane Relief Fund, (800) 919-9338

* Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, (800) 848-5818

* Church World Service, (800) 297-1516

* Convoy of Hope, (417) 823-8998


* Episcopal Church Center, (800) 334-7626

* Jewish Federation, (323) 761-8200

* Mennonite Disaster Service, (717) 859-2210

* Operation USA, (800) 678-7255


* Salvation Army, (800) SAL-ARMY [725-2769]

* United Methodist Committee on Relief, (800) 554-8583

* World Relief, (800) 535-5433

* Humane Society of the United States, (888) 259-5431


* Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Disaster Response, (800) 638-3522

Source: Associated Press

Times staff writer Daniel Yi contributed to this report.