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Help Pours in for Hurricane Victims

Residents raise funds, volunteer.

The repercussions from Hurricane Katrina continue to reach the Mount Vernon area, with people continuing to open their hearts and wallets.

Cheri Zeman, executive director, United Community Ministries, reminded people at the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce luncheon that it was important not to forget to give to local charities. While it is important to contribute to national organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army, it is just as important to continue giving to local nonprofit groups. Zeman said that they are providing assistance to several displaced families who have relocated in this area, and such cash contributions to be able to continue providing that assistance.

Shannon Steene, executive director of Good Shepherd Housing & Family Services, echoed Zeman's advice.

"GSHFS is very concerned about families struggling with their housing needs — both those already in our community, as well as those displaced here from the Gulf States," she said. "Our ability to meet those needs is dependent upon garnering the needed support. It is currently looking like a situation where the resource pie will be the same size, but we will be asked to divide it into smaller parts."

"Situations related to Katrina relief have already arisen in several of our programs. We have had some tough discussions among our board of directors, staff and with our clients. For example, several of our tenants have family members that were displaced, and our tenants are trying to help their families get re-established, with financial assistance as well as donating some of their possessions. This is a difficult balance for them to maintain," Steene said. "Our families and GSHFS want to help, but also need to adhere to the leases we have. For example, a single person in a small one-bedroom apartment may not be able to house five additional working adults without putting their own housing in jeopardy. We are handling each instance on a case-by-case basis."

Larry Padberg, director of development, New Hope Housing, Inc., said that they don't yet have any displaced families or individuals from the Katrina disaster who have made contact for our services.

"We anticipate that it is more likely that we will be seeing some of these families or individuals later, as they work to move beyond initial placements in our area or as some find, unfortunately that they cannot sustain the housing they initially find," he said. "There is currently a waiting list for placement in family shelters in Fairfax County, so family shelter placements are coordinated through the county's Department of Family Services. We will work with any families who come to us directly to do an initial assessment and to assist them in accessing the county services — as we do now for any county residents who come to us."

AREA STUDENTS are doing their part to contribute to the relief effort as well. At Washington Mill Elementary, students and staff members are being encouraged to give up a treat — a fast food meal, a movie rental, or a special dessert — in order to bring in $2 for the Hurricane Katrina relief fund. The school’s goal is to send $1,000 to the Salvation Army to help hurricane victims. The project supports a tenet of the Community of Caring. For more information, contact principal Tish Howard at 703-619-2500 or tish.howard@fcps.edu.

Nicole and Alex Marinello and Sara Link set up a lemonade stand last Saturday and Sunday to raise money for Katrina victims. Nicole, a fifth grader at Stratford Landing, came up with idea and Sara and Alex, seventh graders at Carl Sandburg, helped to make it a reality. The girls raised over $160 and donated it to the Red Cross.

Liz Bobo, Anderson Bobo, Jamie Odom, Katie Carbone and Emily Carbone set up a lemonade and vegetable stand on Waynewood Boulevard and raised $187.11 for Katrina victims. All proceeds were donated to Catholic Charities.

In Wessynton last weekend, there was a Kids for Katrina Car Wash and Bake Sale at their pool. The Wessynton kids wanted to help the Katrina survivors and gave all proceeds go to the Red Cross.

Students from some Fairfax County Public Schools will perform in the upcoming Katrina Aid show organized by Fairfax Families Care (www.fxfc.org). This is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24, at Hayfield Secondary School. Produced by the Cappies, Katrina Aid will be an all-student showcase of performers from 23 high schools in Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The theater at Hayfield Secondary seats 1,400 people.

Admission is by donation of $10; larger donations are also welcome. Tickets can be ordered by calling 703-924-4759 or through the Cappies Web site, www.cappies.com. Donations are tax deductible, as gifts to the Northern Virginia Community Foundation, for Fairfax Families Care. Funds raised will benefit families who have come to the Washington metropolitan area after having been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

FORTY-FOUR MEMBERS of the 294th Engineering Battalion stationed at Fort Belvoir are headed to the Gulf Coast region to aid in restoring power to the areas left devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The soldiers will be spread throughout Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and will be primarily responsible for assessing the amount of energy needed to operate facilities like hospitals and airports, according to Maj. Anthony Reed, executive officer for the engineer battalion.

Nine soldiers arrived in the area Aug. 28 to begin coordinating high-priority areas with local Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel and after the storm passed, several two-man teams went out to begin assessing the area and report their findings to the command cells.

According to Reed, soldiers from the 249th conducted 261 assessments and oversaw 77 temporary power plant installations. The unit provided similar support last year to the hurricane affected areas of Florida and to tsunami devastated areas in Indonesia.

There is no timetable established yet for when these soldiers might return to Fort Belvoir, and currently there is no plan to send any additional soldiers to the area. The unit is preparing for the remainder of the hurricane season, which is scheduled to reach its peak in a few weeks.

This month, a Fort Hunt graduate, Capt. Bruce Jones ('78), has taken over as the Coast Guard commander in New Orleans.