In the wake of last week's devastating Hurricane Katrina which struck New Orleans, Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, local groups here have banded together to provide goods and services to the victims.
Local businessman Jeff Lawrence of Oak Hill got commitments from businesses wanting to help and then called Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) to ask how to involve the community. At the same time, the Rev. Todd Wilson of Chantilly's New Life Christian Church had an organization — Passion for Community — already in place to coordinate relief efforts.
BUT HE needed help connecting with local businesses, so he, too, called Frey. The supervisor connected the two entities together, and they've now joined in a massive undertaking to help the hurricane survivors get back on their feet again.
Lawrence is using the commercial building he owns in Chantilly as a collection site for items, J.K. Moving & Storage of Sterling will transport them to the recipients and James Monroe Bank is accepting financial donations.
"I saw the devastation and wanted to contribute and rally the business community in our area to team together and pool our resources for one, common cause," said Lawrence. "We felt there were people who maybe didn't want to write a check, but wanted to do something to help."
Meanwhile, Passion for Community is New Life's community-impact ministry that matches volunteers with community-service opportunities. They'll man collection sites here, and PFC's director, Ron Furgerson, will coordinate the short-term response.
"It's going to involve multiple businesses and multiple churches," said Wilson. "The whole community is coming together on this thing."
The first collection site is the parking lot of the James Monroe Bank Building at 3914 Centreville Road (near Route 50) in Chantilly. It'll begin accepting donations this Friday, from 7 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Look for the 18-wheeler truck with "Katrina Relief" signs. Donations will be accepted every day for two weeks or more.
Needed are nonperishable items, such as: Bottled water, baby formula, disposable diapers, personal-hygiene items, batteries, garbage bags, new packages of underwear and socks, shoes, cleaning supplies, shovels, brooms, portable radios, sheets, pillows and blankets. For more information or to volunteer help, call Lawrence at 703-707-6404 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
PFC's establishing a contribution fund, organizing teams of people to help in flood- and storm-ravaged areas and coordinating supply collection. Said Wilson: "The goal is to fill up as many truckloads of supplies from our local area as possible and deliver them to other charitable organizations that are prepared to distribute them."
TWO YEARS AGO, New Life helped start Journey Christian Church in New Orleans, and it began a nonprofit, community-ministry organization called Building Better Communities — which was already serving New Orleans' needy and homeless prior to the hurricane.
"Their whole church staff had to flee New Orleans [because of Katrina]," said Wilson. "But they went two hours away to Alexandria, La., and secured warehouse space to store the items collected. And they're gearing up to return with supplies for the hurricane victims. That's why we're partnering with them because they can accept, store and distribute the goods. And we'll do the same with other reputable organizations there."
PFC will also create a list of people willing to personally distribute the items collected and help with cleanup and rebuilding efforts in the Gulf.
"We want to make it as easy as possible for people to participate in the recovery effort and get supplies there," said Wilson. "Building Better Communities will tell us, for example, 'We need four teams of 10 people to help with a certain task during a particular week.'" Then PFC will assemble the teams from its list of people who'd volunteered to help.
Four ways local residents, groups and businesses may participate in this effort are as follows:
1. FINANCIALLY — As a nonprofit organization, PFC can accept tax-deductible, financial contributions so that 100 percent will go to hurricane relief. It can also help people donate directly to other nonprofits helping out. These organizations will be listed on the group's Web site, www.community-impact.org. And James Monroe Bank will accept donations at all its branches for the Salvation Army.
2. Signing up to help on site — People may leave their names, phone numbers and dates when they'll be available to volunteer in the hurricane-ravaged areas. Wilson hopes local businesses will fund their travel expenses. "In the next month, we're going into the business community to rally it to get involved," he said. "We're going to contact every business in Centreville, Chantilly and Clifton."
3. Volunteering — "We need lots of people who want to help Passion for Community with these things," said Wilson. "For example, they can set up collection stations and volunteers to man them, make phone calls, contact businesses and make travel arrangements."
He said if people would volunteer to help with the effort "even just an hour or two per week," it would help immensely. "Our tag line is 'Neighbors helping Neighbors,'" he said. "We want to enable the community to come together to help other people in distress."
4. Helping collect goods — The collection sites around the community will have trucks, but will need people on hand to accept incoming donations of items.
"We're also trying to get some local businesses to take ownership of work teams and collection posts at their own businesses and coordinate their own volunteers for them," said Wilson. "And we're looking for other businesses to jump in and help on the trucking side, too."
The idea is to bring businesses, churches, civic associations and community leaders together to do more in a united effort than they could do on their own. Said Wilson: "There's a whole bunch of people and businesses who want to help out, so Passion for Community is helping provide the coordination and leadership for them to do it."
Furgerson said it's a "real opportunity for Passion for Community to do what it was designed to do — to pull all the elements of the community together. There's such an outpouring of sympathy and a desire to be of service, but there's not always a clear path so that you'll know what you have to offer is actually getting to where you intended it."
And that, he said, is where PFC comes in. At the same time, said Furgerson, "People get to see how great it is when everyone works together [for a common goal]. This is going to be a long-time thing, and we want to be there for [the Hurricane survivors] as long as there's a need."
"Our goal is to have as many individuals and organizations as possible — not just participating in relief efforts — but also in recruiting other organizations to participate," added Wilson. "Just imagine what 100-percent participation would look like. One community bringing its resources to bear really can make a huge difference. Imagine communities all across the country doing the same."