Area workers, volunteers mobilized to assist in hurricane relief effort

Growing contingent to help with rescue, provide power, food

Katrina's Wake

August 31, 2005|By John Fritze | John Fritze,SUN STAFF

Hours before Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Joe Sparks, who is usually busy repairing power lines in Baltimore, made his way south in expectation of widespread outages.

Since then, Sparks, a 47-year- old contractor for Baltimore Gas & Electric, has worked his way through Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. Yesterday, he was putting up utility poles in St. Charles Parish, 30 miles west of New Orleans.

"It's pretty messed up down here," said Sparks, who described eerily empty streets, trees torn from the ground and structural damage. "On a scale of one to 10, I'd put this at about a nine."

Sparks, a Virginia resident, is among a growing contingent of area residents and workers mobilized by relief groups and businesses in the wake of Katrina. Dozens of volunteers are on their way or are on standby as officials continue to assess damage.

Some 2 million residents were without power along the coast, and Sparks said it could take a month to restore electricity to every home and business.

"I'm seeing a lot of poles blown over and wires down on the ground," he said.

Nearly 50 AmeriCorps-National Civilian Community Corps volunteers left Sunday from Perry Point, Md. Twenty-three more are expected to leave in coming days, said AmeriCorps spokeswoman Monica Davis.

Alana Svensen, 24, is among those who took off Sunday for a staging area in Montgomery, Ala. She received instructions yesterday to go to Pascagoula, Miss., where she will distribute food and help out in emergency shelters.

"We've all had the news on nonstop," she said, adding that the group has had to adjust its route several times because of closed roads. "It's going to be interesting when we get down there."

About 35 members of Maryland Task Force One left yesterday in a convoy of 12 vehicles, said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer.

He said the team will likely arrive early this morning and be stationed between Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans. Piringer said the team is prepared to stay at least 10 days.

Nine Baltimore County firefighters - members of the department's Advanced Tactical Rescue Team - were dispatched by the Federal Emergency Management Agency yesterday to a staging area in Harrisburg, Pa., said department spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

FEMA sent members of the team to New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, she said.

The American Red Cross of Central Maryland is sending two volunteers.

Red Cross and local Salvation Army officials said they are not accepting donations of items such as clothing and bottled water, but financial contributions can be made through the national chapters.

How to help

Most charities are requesting financial donations rather than goods or clothing. This enables them to use the money within the communities that are most affected. Among them are:

American Red Cross ( 1-800-435-7669 or 1-800-HELP-NOW

America's Second Harvest ( for hunger relief. 1-800-344-8070

Catholic Charities ( 1-800-919-9338

Church World Services ( 1-800-297-1516

McCormick Tribune Foundation ( 1-800-508-2848

The Sun is a partner in this relief campaign. The foundation will match the first $1 million donated at a rate of 50 cents on the dollar.

Network for Good ( provides easy donations to a number of charities, including the Humane Society of America (for pets) and chapters of the United Way in Florida and Louisiana

Salvation Army: (

Knight Ridder/Tribune

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