Governor encourages winter clothing donations

CHICAGO—Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced that since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August, Illinoisans have donated more than 1 million items to hurricane victims.

Many of the donations, which include clothing, household and other items, were given directly to hurricane victims, and the remainder continue to be distributed to needy families throughout the state.

The governor encouraged Illinoisans to continue to help families in need by donating new or gently used winter clothing to this year’s Keep Our Kids Warm and Safe campaign. Donations can be made at all Illinois Department of Human Services and Illinois Department of Employment Security offices throughout the state.

“So many families suffered when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, and Illinoisans answered the call for help,” Blagojevich said. “Whether it was housing, food, medical care, or donations that total more than 1 million items, many Katrina victims found what they needed in Illinois. But we can’t forget there are still so many families in Illinois in need. In fact, this month’s cold weather reminds us just how important it is for all children to have warm winter clothing. That’s why I encourage everyone to continue donating what they can to the Keep Our Kids Warm and Safe campaign.”

First launched in 2003, the governor’s Keep Our Kids Warm and Safe campaign is an annual statewide clothing and car seat drive. Citizens, businesses, and state employees are encouraged to donate new or gently used gloves, mittens, hats, scarves and new car seats. As they come in, donations will be taken to charities in communities around the state. These charities will then distribute the donations to needy families in their area. Several charities have already received items, including Boys & Girls Clubs in Springfield, Inner City Mission in Springfield, and Catholic Charities in Chicago.

This year, 21st Century donated 100 new car seats to Keep Our Kids Warm & Safe. Illinois State Police officers are educating parents and caregivers about how to use and install the seats, and distributing “Child Safety Seats: A Parent’s Guide” to explain proper seat installation and use. The guide, available in English or Spanish, can be obtained free of charge at safety fairs, by contacting the company’s corporate headquarters at 1-800-211-SAVE or by visiting

Last year, the statewide partnership between Blagojevich, the Illinois State Police and 21st Century Insurance conducted more than 850 child safety seat inspections, resulting in more than 200 unsafe seats being destroyed. Over the last two years, 21st has donated more than 1,400 new safety seats to Illinois children.

To make it easier for the public to help Hurricane Katrina victims, and to help Gulf Coast evacuees arriving in Illinois find out what state services are available to them, in September, the governor set up several telephone hotlines. The governor announced the Hurricane Katrina Assistance IDHS Helpline will be extended through the holidays—to continue to provide information and support to victims. Since it was launched, the helpline has taken more than 7,000 calls.

The IDHS Helpline (1-800-843-6154, 1-800-447-6404 for TTY) hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., giving callers one-stop access to all of the State of Illinois’ resources for Katrina victims—from emergency food and shelter to more long-term assistance like unemployment benefits, food stamps, and crisis counseling. Operators from the Department of Human Services are able to connect callers to information about the following:

Financial assistance available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross;

Energy Assistance that may be available through Illinois’ LIHEAP program to hurricane evacuees placed in temporary or permanent housing;

Various health care programs offered by the state and federal governments that may be available to evacuees;

Temporary and permanent housing available through the states, FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development;

Employment available in Illinois and through the U.S. Department of Labor;

Change of address forms from the United States Postal Service;

Other state and federal services and programs including crisis counseling, unemployment, rehabilitation services, developmental disabilities, veterans’ benefits, seniors’ benefits, child care, and substance abuse; and

Caring for pets affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The Illinois Department of Human Services estimates that roughly 2,000 victims displaced by Hurricane Katrina are currently living in Illinois, either with friends, family or on their own. Approximately 415 people traveled to Illinois on flights arranged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Those who were staying at shelters run by the state have all moved to other housing.

From the Jan. 11-17, 2006, issue

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