A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


Friday, September 30, 2005

Further Examples of the American Spirit

USA Today" Americans interrupt lives to help hurricane victims---

"We're reaching historic highs," Marty Evans, president and CEO of the 124-year-old American Red Cross, says of interest in volunteering. More than 163,000 Red Cross-trained disaster workers, mostly volunteers, from all 50 states are providing relief. After the 9/11 attacks, 54,577 volunteers did so.

Like the Red Cross, the federal agency that oversees the volunteer AmeriCorps and Senior Corps is also planning its largest mobilization ever of relief workers. "This could be three or four times larger" than last year's effort to help Florida recover from four hurricanes, says Sandy Scott, spokesman for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Now, a month after Katrina, several charities say volunteer interest is starting to slacken in some areas. Still, they say they're amazed at how many people are signing up, especially online.

"We've been just overwhelmed with calls and e-mails," said Joedy Isert, spokesman for Habitat for Humanity, which began its Katrina pilot project this week in Los Angeles, Jackson, Miss., and New York City's Rockefeller Center. "The numbers have just exploded."

Isert says more than 12,000 volunteers have signed up online to help build houses to be transported to the hurricane zone. "We're looking for people of all skills," he says. "We also welcome people who've never swung a hammer."

Yet some charities, including the Salvation Army, say areas with few evacuees may not need as many volunteers. Some volunteers say they've gone to the Gulf only to find they're not needed.

Steven Lerner, an internist and pulmonary specialist in private practice in Washington, D.C., joined George Washington University's Medical Relief Team. He was sent to Louisiana. Arriving Sept. 12, he found plenty of medical staff for the relatively few patients in New Orleans. In the future, he says the response needs to be better "stratified and coordinated." Still, he found the volunteer spirit impressive. "It's unbelievable the humanistic outpouring," he says. "It's a very pro-American feeling."

Some go it alone

While many volunteers work with churches or charities, some are striking out on their own - and defying obstacles.
This is a great story. The media needs to tell this type more often, rather than always painting Americans as lazy, greedy, selfish people. We give, and give, and give, and the world calls us names.

I'm proud to be an American for many reasons, including our generosity. What a great country to be a part of.