Lawrence area residents are opening their homes, their hearts and their wallets as they continue expressing their desires to help the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina.
By Wednesday evening, more than 560 people from Lawrence had posted messages online at hurricanehousing.org stating that they have a place where evacuees can stay. One of those messages was posted by Tracy Williams.
"There's something inside me telling me that's what I need to do, more than anything I've ever had before," Williams said, describing why she posted the message.
"We live on a quiet, dead-end street," her message says, referring to her husband, Jason Williams. "We have a 2-year-old daughter, and we'd like to house a mother with children."
The message goes on to say that her house has extra downstairs space with a queen-size bed and a queen-size air mattress.
"I have a huge concern for the children," said Williams, a social worker.
Louise Pennewell is working with local contractor Sid Ziegler in offering free rental space for up to six evacuees.
How you can help
Sunflower Broadband's 6News, in conjunction with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, is raising funds for relief for Hurricane Katrina victims. 6News will host the special "Hurricane Katrina: We Care" from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6, during which viewers can make pledges to the relief agencies.
¢ Direct donations to the Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross may be made with a credit card by phone at 843-3550, or by mailing checks or money orders to Douglas County Red Cross, 2518 Ridge Court, Lawrence 66046. Donations also may be made online in various ways at www.redcross.org.
¢ Donations to the Salvation Army may be made by credit card at (800) SAL-ARMY or online at www.salvationarmyusa.org. Checks may be mailed to 3637 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo. 64111.
Residents wanting to help with efforts to establish a shelter for Hurricane Katrina victims are encouraged to donate money to the Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Organizers said that a program has not been established to allow people to drop off items, such as blankets and toiletries. Monetary donations are preferable because it will allow the Red Cross to buy the necessary items without having to create a separate system for collection and storage of donated goods.
Organizers are seeking interested volunteers. People can call the Red Cross or the Roger Hill Volunteer Center for more information. The Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross can be reached at 843-3550. The Roger Hill Volunteer Center can be contacted at 865-5030.
"My heart just goes out to those people," Pennewell said. "You see the devastation, and you feel like you have to do something."
But "doing something" hasn't been easy. Pennewell started making phone calls several days ago trying to find a way to let refugees know she had space available and was ready to help. She made calls to local agencies and even called the Houston Astrodome and Reliant Center, where refugees were taken. She was told to call the Houston housing authority, where she got a recording with instructions telling her how to find public housing.
"I just got the runaround," Pennewell said. "I think it's just that so many people are trying to help that they (relief workers) are just overwhelmed."
Pennewell has since posted messages on several Web sites about the availability of free housing.
"You hate to see these people suffer," she said.
'Bring us rice'
Last Thursday the Rev. Joseph Tung Dang, a Lawrence Catholic priest, loaded up a minivan and traveled to Biloxi, Miss., with Steve Nguyen, owner of Jade Mongolian Barbecue, 1511 W. 23rd St., to find Nguyen's sister and her family. They also took food and supplies to the city's Asian community.
Although Nguyen's relatives were found, they had lost everything, as had many of the hurricane victims.
"I was heartbroken," Dang said. "It was just wood and rubble everywhere."
Dang returned to Lawrence on Sunday and immediately made plans to go back to Biloxi with more food and supplies. He also is taking quantities of rice, a food item he said he received many requests for during his first trip. He recruited a couple of volunteers to help him drive, and Wednesday night he was still seeking an extra car to help take supplies. He also sought donations from the local Asian community and businesses. He is leaving again for Biloxi this afternoon.
"We are going to set up a tent and we are going to cook," Dang said. "We're going to feed them, and we're going to give them rice."
Anyone who wants to make monetary donations can stop by the Mongolian Barbecue this morning. Packages of new underwear for victims also are in need, Dang said.
Related content about the Hurricane Katrina aftermath
- 6News video: KU group makes toys for Katrina victims (02-12-06)
- 6News video: Group organizing trip to aid New Orleans hurricane victims (02-12-06)
- 6News Lawrence's complete Hurricane Katrina coverage »»
- Delayed response to disaster irks Lawrence native (03-06-06)
- Katrina underscores public's frustration with government (03-06-06)
- Video: Bush was warned before Katrina (03-02-06)
- Evacuees check out, protest as FEMA hotel deadline passes (03-02-06)
- Complete coverage of Hurricane Katrina »»
- Photo Gallery: Hurricane Helpers
- Photo Gallery: Hurricane Katrina
- On the Street: Do you think FEMA could handle an emergency if it happened here? (09-13-05)
- On the Street: What is your opinion of the president's response to the Hurricane Katrina emergency? (09-08-05)
- On the Street: What should people do locally to help hurricane victims? (09-02-05)