There are many good places to send money to help in the Southeast, and many good people trying to cope with the many people who were displaced by Katrina. If you haven't already done so, consider sending cash to the Union for Reform Judaism Hurricane Relief Fund or go to the Red Cross website to volunteer and/or contribute.
My high school classmate, Rebecca, forwarded an email to me last week from Father Tim Hurd, in Zwolle, LA:
Katrina did not send wind or water this far west, so we still have power etc. What has happened though is that buses of evacuees are being herded into every nook and cranny of the state. here at St Joseph's in Zwolle we're expecting another 100 or so to arrive at any time. The parishioners and local people here are trying to be helpful and are remarkably and tremendously generous/
The greatest problem/fear: There are at least two kinds of evacuees.
1. Those who left as family units before the storm: they have some sort of transportation, a few belongings, etc.
2. Those who are being picked up along the highways, those who would not/could not leave before, those being plucked up out of the sewage/mess in New Orleans, the stragglers that can't find family, that have nothing, that are totally exhausted, famished, some are vomiting, they're all angry: at God, us, the state, the feds, the sun, the grass,..... this group is really a mixed group. There are crack heads going through the DT's, the people who are HIV+, inner-city thugs, people who are desperately trying to find someone they know/knew.... all mixed in ......suffering, hurting people...
Those are the people who we are being asked to house and are or will be staying here; those are the group from which we'll be getting another 100 or so..... probably for 2 months at least--could be 3-4 months they're warning. Our community here is mostly poor to lower middle class, mostly based on the Timber industry (which is running out of diesel fuel). Zwolle is a simple, somewhat backward town ( imagine a Mayberry/Deliverance cross!?) with hardworking, good people. We're scared, they're scared, everybody's scared....
It seems harsh, but our local law enforcement is begging the state to divert some of them elsewhere. But we'll do whatever we need to do.
I'm tired and obviously leaning to the exhausted side--so forgive please if I seem dramatic to you......
We'll keep going, jump into the unknown (it looks better than the 'known' at this point).
Pray for us, please. And give a prayer of thanks when/if you look in your underwear drawer and see more than one pair........
I wrote to Fr. Hurd and asked him if cash would help, and if so, where to send it. His reply:
Our address here is:
St. Joseph Catholic Church
P.O. Box 8
Zwolle, LA 71486
We've run out of sorting/storage/distribution space for clothes and such and I am trying to find out where to send on those things. I'll try to get back to you with that.
It's now Elul, the month leading up to the High Holy Days, and I've begun practicing the chants and prayers for the solemn services. One of the prayers, the Unetaneh Tokef, reminds us that we do not know who will live or die in the next year, who by fire and who by flood. As in 2001, those words are particularly sharp this year, since we have just had a demonstration of how unpredictable life can be.
There are lots of different ways to theologize about it, and lots of reasons to be angry and targets for the anger, lots of analysis and lots of words that can be said, but in the meantime people are hungry and homeless and there are caregivers stretched to the brink. I encourage you to join me in finding your own way to help the sufferers. If not now, when?