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Potomac Relief Projects Continue

Individuals, groups reach out to Katrina victims.

Montgomery County officials and residents have expanded efforts to collect money and supplies and provide resources to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded New Orleans and ravaged much of the Gulf coastal region last week.

Potomac children have set up bake sales and lemonade stands to raise money for the American Red Cross, while their parents have led fund-raisers through churches, synagogues, and community organizations.

The county has established a Hurricane Relief Hotline to serve as a clearinghouse for information on Hurricane Katrina-related relief efforts and to help match donations with the wide array of organizations throughout the region that are working to help Gulf Coast residents in the aftermath. People who are willing to house families should call the hotline, which will be staffed by volunteers Monday-Friday 9 a.m. -6 p.m. Call 240-777-2600.

The Silver Spring Jazz festival, featuring New Orleans native Wynton Marsalis as the headliner, raised more than $22,000 for the Red Cross Sept. 10.

The County has also arranged to waive tuition at Montgomery College for Gulf Coast students impacted by the storm.

* Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac has organized a special food drive to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina now in Montgomery County. The food is being delivered to Rockville-based Manna Food Center, which expects to help up to 50 Gulf-coast families who are staying with local family members during the current emergency.

Assistance from Manna is being coordinated through the Montgomery County Crisis Center,

Donations of non-perishable food in non-breakable containers are being collected at Congregation Har Shalom, 11510 Falls Road, Potomac, just south of Glen Road.

Food items especially needed include non-fat dry milk, canned milk, breakfast cereal (hot or cold), baby food and infant formula, peanut butter, canned tuna or salmon, canned chicken or beef, canned or dried fruit, canned vegetables, beans, rice, pasta and egg noodles, and canned pasta sauce.

Har Shalom is also accepting monetary donations for Katrina’s victims. Donations may be made to Congregation Har Shalom, and earmarked for Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund-Katrina.

For more information, call Har Shalom at 301-299-7087

* Alessandra Kellermann — the Potomac native who runs the Web site homefronthugs.com and was recently profiled in the Almanac — started Homefront Lunchbox Hugs for Katrina Kids, a project to collect children’s lunchboxes stuffed with non-perishable food, toys and other small items to donate to Katrina victims.

She is also collecting water, food, clothing, shoes and items for children to be donated to the American Red Cross.

Kellermann is uniquely positioned to deliver donations. She lives near Pensacola, Fla., in a region brushed by Katrina itself and struck by numerous other hurricanes this year and in the past.

“We narrowly escaped Katrina's wrath. I gave the remainder of my hurricane supplies even on my limited budget to … my Catholic church to [deliver to] Mississippi and Mobile,” Kellermann said in an e-mail.

“I will personally make sure [donated supplies] get to our evacuees — and not just the thousands here in Pensacola and Gulf Breeze, but driving to the coastal areas that were hardest hit like Mobile and Biloxi and Gulfport.”

Kellermann’s organization is not a registered nonprofit, so donations are not tax-deductible. Donors can contact her by phone at 412-498-3855, by e-mail at info@HomefrontHugs.com, or simply send supplies to the Kellermann Family, Homefront Lunchbox Hugs, 1467 Tiger Lake Drive, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563.

* Norwood School seventh-grader Jonathan Korns is collecting donations to help donate batteries and flashlights to the Hurricane-stricken region. Jonathan’s father Jeffery Korns owns Battery Warehouse in Rockville. Donations will pay for at-cost battery purchases through the store, which has donated the first 100 flashlights and 500 batteries. They will be delivered to the Red Cross, Salvation Army or Federal Emergency Management Agency, Jonathan said.

“As I’ve been getting older, I’ve been becoming more interested in current events,” Jonathan said, dismayed as he watched the storm events unfold. “A lot of places there’s no power at night. I wanted to do something to try to help.”

Jonathan partly took his inspiration from Norwood’s response to the Asian tsunami last December. In a short time, the school raised $10,000 through a simple coin drive.

“I realized what a big difference we could make,” he said.

He began collecting money Aug. 31 and received more than $500 from neighbors in the first few hours.

But Jonathan also emphasized that his own project is only one of many, and that it’s individual goodwill — not participation in his own project — that’s most important.

“People say, ‘Well we’ve already given $100 through our church.’ That’s more than great, because it's all going to the same place and that’s all that really matters,” he said. “For me, it’s more about getting the message out.”

* Ride On is sponsoring food donation programs to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina, including the “Give and Ride” program and drop-off programs at several County locations. In addition to canned or non-perishable food items, children’s items such as disposable diapers, formula, baby or toddler food and juice, are needed. Plastic containers are preferred.

Bus passengers can help needy families and receive free bus rides by donating canned or non-perishable food during Ride On’s special hurricane relief Give and Ride food drive. A free bus trip will be provided to riders who donate food from through Sept. 17.

Food collection bags will be placed near the fare box on all of Ride On’s buses.

Residents who do not use Ride On can participate by dropping off food at the County’s Regional Service Centers and the Commuter Express Store during normal business hours through Sept. 16.

The location nearest to Potomac is the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda.

All food donations will be sent to the Manna Food Center in Rockville, which is supporting Katrina victims who have taken refuge in Montgomery County. Manna estimates they need about 5,000 pounds of food a week to meet the needs of these families.