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Local Businesses, Agencies Mobilize to Help Hurricane Victims

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A number of local businesses and agencies are gearing up to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the nation's Gulf Coast region.

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is asking its parishes to hold voluntary collections to raise money for the hurricane relief effort. Wegman's is making a $100,000 corporate donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and is accepting donations for the fund from customers. And the Food Bank of Western New York is also pitching in. Its president, Clem Eckert, says they've set aside three truckloads of water and beverages -- about 60,000 pounds -- for shipment to affected areas.

"Fortunately, at this time of the year, the various suppliers and manufacturers of water in our community have been very generous to us, knowing our need," Eckert said. "We had a fair amount of supply on hand."

Eckert said the challenge right now is getting the shipment to those who need it. He said Delta Sonic has contributed $5,000 to cover transportation costs. Meanwhile, Rural Metro Medical Services is preparing to send a local crew to the Gulf Coast to assist first responders there. Spokesman Steve Beauchamp says ambulances and supplies are being assembled now.

"We are going to have two advanced life support, parademic-level ambulances manned by two crews ready to go down," Beauchamp said. "That's a total of eight staffers. They will head down as soon as FEMA gives us the go ahead."

Beauchamp said the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a nationwide appeal Wednesday for an additional 300 ambulances.

Congressman Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) provided Western New Yorkers with information on how to help Hurricane Katrina victims, and urged an outpouring of help from the region.

"My deepest sympathies go out to the victims of this tragic and deadly hurricane," Higgins said. "All of us in Western New York stand with our fellow Americans in the devastated areas and will work to bring assistance, and help rebuild from this great calamity."

Below are some key phone numbers and websites provided by Higgins' office for the latest information on the hurricane, information on how to make a donation to help with disaster relief, and how to locate a friend or relative:

Search and Rescue/Family-Friend location: * FEMA: (800) 621-FEMA (3362) or www.fema.gov

* Search and rescue emergency line for the State Office of Emergency Preparedness in Baton Rouge: (225) 925-7708; (225) 925-7709; (225) 925-3511; (225) 925-7412.

To inquire about family and friends that did not evacuate the Greater New Orleans area contact the American Red Cross: (866) 438-4636

To donate money:

* American Red Cross (800) HELP NOW (435-7669) or www.redcross.org * American Red Cross, Southeast Chapter: (800) 229-8191 * Operation Blessing (800) 436-6348 * America's Second Harvest (800) 344-8070

To donate money or volunteer:

* Adventist Community Services (800) 381-7171 * Catholic Charities, USA (703) 549-1390 * Christian Disaster Response (941) 956-5183 or (941) 551-9554 * Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (800) 848-5818 * Church World Service (800) 297-1516 * Convoy of Hope (417) 823-8998 * Lutheran Disaster Response (800) 638-3522 * Mennonite Disaster Service (717) 859-2210 * Nazarene Disaster Response (888) 256-5886 * Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (800) 872-3283 * Salvation Army (800) SAL-ARMY (725-2769) * Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief (800) 462-8657, ext. 6133 * United Methodist Committee on Relief (800) 554-8583