At Urban League Meeting, Katrina Open Arms Coalition Formed

Sep 8, 2005

At Urban League Meeting, Katrina Open Arms Coalition Formed to Assist Hurricane Evacuees in Washington Metropolitan Area

Some 80 attendees representing community organizations, corporations, churches and individuals met at the Greater Washington Urban League (GWUL) on Thursday, September 8, 2005, and formed the Katrina Open Arms Coalition to help Washington D.C. area Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Immediately, the coalition is volunteering to assist the city in providing resources to evacuees at the D.C. Armory. GWUL President Maudine R. Cooper said that the League and the coalition will help the city to sort items that have already been donated for evacuees. “We need volunteers to help with this effort as many, many items have been donated with the community opening its hearts and arms to evacuees.” Cooper said that Diane Simmons Williams, wife of District Mayor Anthony Williams, has agreed to serve as Honorary Chair of the coalition.

The District’s Director of Emergency Management Barbara Childs-Pair, who spoke at the meeting, said that volunteers are needed who have strong organizational skills. She said that the evacuee families also need toiletries, gift cards for purchase of items, barber and beautician services and day care after school care.

Commitments of services and resources to the effort were made from Enterprise Rent-A-Car (transportation of certain donated items), the Greater Washington Urban League (which will provide books through its partner Scholastic Books), Southwest Airlines and Safeway (job recruitment), and many other offers of help. Individuals committed to provide respite care for parents of elementary children, tutoring and hair care services. Several taxi drivers agreed to pick up and drop off requested supplies.

Volunteer coordinator of the coalition is League Board Member Bill Ritchie, a retired deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, who is assisted by volunteers Phyllis Anderson and William Thompson, Jr.

Cooper said initial activities are centering on pressing needs, but the coalition will focus on the resettlement challenges of evacuees in employment, housing, transportation and education, not only for the persons in the D.C. Armory, but for evacuees who are living with families in the area. “We are looking at a family to family effort, where one family will assist an evacuee family.”

To offer support services or resources, please contact the Katrina Open Arms Coalition at the Greater Washington Urban League by calling 202-265-8200 or email information to PLEASE DO NOT SEND ANY MONETARY DONATIONS EARMARKED TO THE LEAGUE FOR COALITION ACTIVITIES.