Westsiders Carry a Load for Refugees

Times Staff Writer

On a day when Los Angeles city and county officials announced plans to shelter Hurricane Katrina refugees, hundreds of Westside residents descended on a tree-lined Santa Monica street Monday, determined to offer aid with their own hands.

SUVs and Toyota Priuses idled in line, stuffed full of bottled water, diapers, Band-Aids, toys and bags overflowing with clothes and other goods from Pottery Barn and Nordstrom.

The drivers told the same story over and over, about growing numb watching the horrific television images. They made cash donations but felt compelled by an overwhelming sense of urgency. So for four days, the cars kept coming.

“Everyone is in pain over this. It is just hellish,” said Victor Lobl, who drove from Malibu with supplies to donate, including blankets hand-crocheted by his mother.


That urgency reverberated across Southern California on a holiday weekend normally devoted to traveling and backyard barbecues.

According to a joint announcement by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and county Supervisor Gloria Molina, at least 2,000 evacuees will be offered shelter and aid by the city and county of Los Angeles in an effort organized by an emergency task force.

Officials are assessing where those evacuees will be housed, said mayoral spokesman Joe Ramallo.

Molina and Villaraigosa activated the county Emergency Operations Center to prepare for the effort, which is being coordinated with the state Office of Emergency Services, the federal government and nonprofit organizations.


A Los Angeles County sheriff’s helicopter team also joined the nearly 200 emergency workers from county and city fire departments already dispatched to the disaster area.

To date, California has sent a lengthy tally of emergency teams, said Matt Bender, a spokesman for the Office of Emergency Services. They include eight swift-water rescue teams, eight urban search and rescue task forces, 23 incident support team managers, three OES assistant fire chiefs, 629 National Guard soldiers and airmen and 116 CHP officers with four helicopters.

Red Cross officials said they had expanded to 55 the number of families they were helping to house here and were considering how many more might be accommodated.

But many residents continued to reach out without the involvement of government agencies or charities.

As in New Orleans, the four-day relief effort in Santa Monica has been buffeted with problems. So many people brought supplies to Franklin Elementary School that they swiftly filled three tractor-trailer trucks. Volunteers sent e-mails and radio alerts for more trucks. By Sunday, the volunteers had been forced to turn people away and direct them to other organizations.

“People feel better, giving directly to people who need it,” said businessman Tom Browne.

The Santa Monica effort started last week, when two unrelated Franklin parents, Brown and Debra Young Krizman, both originally from New Orleans, began thinking about how to collect supplies and get them to the stricken region. Browne, the founder of Tomzilla Production Grip & Lighting Co. of Burbank, could provide a 48-foot tractor-trailer truck to transport supplies. His relatives contacted the fire department in Slidell, La., which promised to accept the shipments.

Krizman e-mailed 60 other parents and friends, and so many people arrived at Franklin starting Friday that Browne’s truck filled up, and he found two more. By Monday, Idaho Street was awash with trucks and cars as Krizman, Browne and other sunburned volunteers -- cellphones balanced on their shoulders -- tried to direct traffic and find more trucks to move hundreds of large cardboard boxes stacked on the curb.


The ad hoc system was remarkably organized. One woman walked through the crowd with a bottle of sun block for the volunteers. Two men working with cellphones managed to locate three more trucks from a music production company.

That same enthusiasm played out near Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.

At noon Monday, Jack Martin, who owns a tattoo parlor called Ink Sanity, and James Livingston, a foreman at a door-installation company, took off for Houston with 10 others, driving a caravan that included two tractor-trailers, two smaller trucks with trailers attached and a cargo van.

Since Wednesday, they said, they had managed to accumulate 90,000 pounds of supplies, as well as $15,000 in cash to cover the trip.

One man donated 200 toothbrushes. Someone called from Amsterdam on Friday and gave $250.

One Louisiana evacuee found a new home in Hollywood via the Internet. Shauna Siliezar, 26, of Kenner, La., said she had sat out the storm with her baby daughter in Baton Rouge, then found a listing for actor Eileen Galindo’s donated one-bedroom apartment on a website sponsored by the liberal political organization MoveOn.

Galindo had just bought the five-unit building and was planning to rent it out when the hurricane hit. Her new tenant, Siliezar, a bartender, drove out to L.A. to take advantage of the offer on the website. She and her husband, an auto salesman who was here on a business trip when Katrina invaded the Gulf Coast, moved in Monday.

Siliezar’s own home is now underwater, she said. “I am overwhelmed. I have never been in a situation in life when I needed to receive help like this, and it puts me in a very humble place.”



Times staff writers Rich Connell, Jill Leovy and Ashley Powers contributed to this report.



How to help

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

* Adventist Community Services, (800) 381-7171

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

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

* Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund,

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

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

* Church World Service, (800) 297-1516

* Convoy of Hope, (417) 823-8998

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

* Humane Society of the United States, (888) 259-5431; (800) HUMANE1 [486-2631]

* 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


Source: Associated Press

Los Angeles Times