Area reacts in aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Countless residents, organizations and corporations in the Rockford area have stepped forward in the past week to assist victims and evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

Katrina, originally a Category 5 hurricane, was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane shortly before it hit the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the early morning hours of Aug. 29. The hurricane carried with it winds in excess of 130 mph, completely obliterating entire cities and washing away homes—and residents.

Shortly after the storm cleared, it appeared New Orleans—much of it below sea level—had avoided major catastrophe. But aging levees that protected the bowl-like city from the raging waters of Lake Pontchartrain gave way, flooding nearly 100 percent of the city, and stranding thousands of residents who decided to stay home and brave the storm.

Following what had been characterized as a slow response by the federal government, thousands of New Orleans residents, including some 20,000 seeking shelter at the Superdome, waited days—sometimes more than a week—before being evacuated. Many who remained in the city were poor and could not afford transportation to leave the city. For some, it was too late by the time help arrived. The death toll in New Orleans is projected to be as high as 10,000.

Officials reported Tuesday, Sept. 6, that sand bags had finally amassed to fill the gaps in the damaged levees, and water was beginning to be pumped from the city. There was no estimate how long it would take to pump the water from the city, or if the weakened levees would be able to withstand the force of the added water.

The storm has left more than 1 million Americans displaced from their homes, jobs and lives. Officials announced Sept. 7 that all residents remaining in the city of New Orleans would be forced to evacuate due primarily to concerns about the spread of disease and leaking fuel through the flooded waters.

It would be nearly impossible to list all of the different ways the Rockford area has stepped forward to assist with Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. However, what follows is a brief overview of some of the efforts the Rockford area has made in the past week. More efforts are sure to follow in the coming weeks and months as the nation continues to work to put the Gulf Coast region back together.

Those wishing to help with disaster relief efforts can make donations to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by calling 800-HELP-NOW or 800-257-7575 (Spanish), or through a secure Internet site at The local Rock River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross is also accepting volunteers and other donations at 727 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61103, or phone at 963-8471. Checks sent to that address should be made out to American Red Cross with “Disaster Relief Fund” as the subject line.

The State also has a toll-free number to assist displaced people who come to Illinois. The number, 1-800-843-6154, will stay in service as long as needed.

For more information on other relief efforts not listed in this article, see related articles in this week’s issue of The Rock River Times.

Winnebago County offers help to victims of Hurricane Katrina

Winnebago County Housing Authority (WCHA) offered 30 apartments for displaced seniors and disabled families, and 30 Section 8 vouchers for families who are victims of Hurricane Katrina—60 units in total.

Winnebago County’s public housing and vouchers represents an approximate $288,000 annual commitment in assisting families.

WCHA contacted the Human and Urban Development (HUD) Chicago office in offering to administrate the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) vouchers. The authority is ready for the extra administration.

Displaced families can be placed in their homes at any hour of the day, any day of the week. The Red Cross and other agencies simply contact the Winnebago County Housing Authority by way of the 24-hour telephone line: (815) 988-3882.

In May 2005, Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen directed WCHA to develop a Disaster Mitigation Plan through FEMA. The plan will address any possible disaster, such as floods, tornadoes, dangerous heat waves, etc.

The plan can take six months to a year to develop, and is now at the point where the County is working directly with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

As of two weeks ago, funding was being developed through the Illinois Emergency Management Agency for consulting services and other help in moving forward with the plan.

AMCORE establishes hurricane relief fund

AMCORE Bank has established a Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund to aid in the humanitarian crisis facing the people affected by the disaster.

The AMCORE Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund has been opened with a $5,000 donation from the AMCORE Foundation. In addition, AMCORE will match contributions 50 cents on the dollar from employees and customers up to an additional $5,000.

Donations may be made at any Illinois or Wisconsin AMCORE branch. Checks should be made payable to: AMCORE Hurricane Relief. Donations will be accepted through Monday, Sept. 19. The money raised will be sent to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

“It is difficult to comprehend the enormous amount of destruction and human suffering the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are experiencing,” said Ken Edge, AMCORE chairman, president and CEO. “I’m sure many of us are looking for ways that we can help.”

For more information about the American Red Cross, call 1-800-HELP NOW or e-mail

Illinois Attorney General urges caution when charity calls for hurricane aid

CHICAGO—Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged Illinoisans to be generous, but careful, in their charitable giving, especially over the Internet, to agencies and organizations involved in relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This is definitely a time for all of us to help the victims of this disaster,” Madigan said in a press release. “But it’s an unfortunate fact that natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina can bring out con artists looking to make money off tragedy.”

Should consumers decide to donate to relief efforts, Madigan said it is always best to donate to reputable relief organizations with which they are familiar. Madigan said consumers can check with her office’s Charitable Trust Bureau to make sure an organization to which they are considering donating is properly registered. Madigan stressed that some highly respected charities such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and many religious-affiliated organizations do not appear on the Attorney General’s Internet list of registered charities because they are exempt from the office’s filing requirements.

Many organizations now feature Web sites to make donating more convenient; however, Madigan said consumers should be on guard for Internet-based scams.

For example, consumers may receive e-mails that they should avoid. “Phishing” e-mails look similar or try to appear to be from well-known organizations such as the Red Cross, but contain links embedded within them that take a donor to a fake site with a scam artist on the other end. After the tsunami disaster last year, Madigan said many donors discovered a number of computer viruses were spread by these phony charity messages.

“We have heard today from the Federal Trade Commission that ‘phishing’ is already well under way in response to Hurricane Katrina,” Madigan said. “Simply put, do not respond to any unsolicited e-mail asking for donations. It is best to go directly to a reputable organization’s Web site, or call the organization directly to make your pledge.”

Madigan said consumers should keep in mind some tips when considering their donation:

Find out if the solicitor is a paid fund-raiser. If so, a portion of the contribution will go toward the solicitor’s salary. Illinois law requires paid fund-raisers to identify themselves and to name the charity for which they are soliciting.

Request written information. A legitimate charity will not hesitate to provide background on its mission and how donations will be used.

Refuse high-pressure tactics such as a solicitor saying a donor must make his or her decision before hanging up.

Never pay the donation in cash. For security and tax purposes, pay by check.

Keep a record of the donation by making a copy of the check, credit card receipt or confirmation number.

Pay close attention to the name of the charity. Sometimes fraudulent charities confuse donors by using names that sound similar to respected, legitimate charities.

Write the full name of the charity on the check; do not use initials.

Madigan said another resource consumers can consult before giving is the Web site for a listing and reports from some of the major organizations involved in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

More information about charitable giving is available by contacting Madigan’s Charitable Trust Bureau at (312) 814-2595 or by going online to Madigan’s Web site,, and clicking on “Building Better Charities.”

Trinity Lutheran youth help Katrina victims

On Saturday, Sept. 3, the parking lots at Trinity Lutheran Church became a vehicle for helping victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Each year, the youth of Trinity invite the public to utilize Trinity’s parking lots for a fee of $5 for On the Waterfront parking. The parking lots are on North First Street between Market and Jefferson streets.

“A significant portion ($1,500) of the donations on Saturday together with the help of a matching grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans will go to Lutheran Disaster Response, who has been on the ground helping victims during this time of grief and loss,” said Kevin Rehfeldt, director for Youth Ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church.

Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) is a network of Lutheran churches, organizations and agencies that coordinate major relief efforts when disasters like Katrina happen on a domestic or global basis. One-hundred percent of gifts made to LDR are tax deductible.

Ranger Enterprises accepting donations for hurricane relief

Victims of Hurricane Katrina are attempting to recover from one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

The estimated damage to the Gulf Coast area is said to be as much as $50 billion. American Red Cross volunteers have been deployed to the hardest-hit areas of Katrina’s devastation supplying thousands of victims left homeless with critical necessities.

By making a financial gift to Hurricane 2005 Relief, the Red Cross can provide shelter, food, clothing, counseling and other assistance to those in need.

As of Sept. 2, Ranger Enterprises, Inc., which owns 48 Road Ranger convenience store and travel plaza locations throughout Illinois, southern Wisconsin, northwestern Indiana, Missouri and Iowa, will be accepting donations at every Road Ranger location on behalf of the American Red Cross, with 100 percent of the donations going to the victims in the Gulf Coast. To help the victims of this disaster, please donate anything and everything you can.

For more information, you may visit the American Red Cross Web site at or call 1-800-HELP-NOW. You may also mail your donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Response Fund at P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

From the Sept. 7-13, 2005, issue

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