The Volunteer Effort

Acadiana mobilizes to aid Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

On the morning of Aug. 31, the day Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared a "Day of Prayer," close to 200 people streamed into the Clifton Chenier Center to organize local hurricane relief efforts. United Way of Acadiana's Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster group opened up its emergency meeting to local nonprofits, social service groups and church leaders who want to help. Representatives from the Red Cross, Chamber of Commerce, Food Net and Office of Public Health were in attendance, and United Way President and CEO Margaret Trahan took the microphone and announced, "We're thinking out loud. We're getting the ideas on paper."

"Our main need is a coordinated volunteer effort," says Tony Credeur, executive director of the Acadiana chapter of the American Red Cross. "Right now, we do not need anything dropped off at the Cajundome. We can't take homemade foods. The food has to be coordinated and has to meet health regulations."

Trahan and Credeur are asking locals who want to help to call the United Way Volunteer Center or 232-HELP. The center is compiling a list of volunteers, and Director Dana Brignac says volunteers will be placed as needs arise. 232-HELP (211) has been designated by the state Office of Public Health and the Governor's Office as a central location for shelter and volunteer information. 211 Specialist Cile Guidry says the organization is taking calls for everything from information about family members left behind in the storm to rescues and volunteer opportunities. "Our lines stay busy, so keep calling," she says.

The community meeting designated local organizations for certain efforts. Goodwill is coordinating school supplies and uniforms; the Salvation Army is the place for donations of clothing; and Food Net is accepting food donations. United Way is asking that anyone who wants to help or organize an effort, like a food or clothing drive, contact its office.

Patience is going to be the virtue over the next several weeks. "We need to take cues from the Red Cross and have the patience to do that," says Trahan. Credeur says the Red Cross is focusing on making the Cajundome as viable a shelter as possible, by getting a mobile food unit, portable showers, enough nurses and doctors to staff the infirmary and activities to occupy children at the Cajundome. At press time, the Cajundome had 6,000 evacuees and could not fit any more. "They are sending a lot of people out of New Orleans, which we are going to have to absorb," Credeur says. "Our population could go to 10,000. It's going to be a massive operation, a long operation."

Vermilion Parish is also working to care for its more than 1,000 evacuees and take in more from the Superdome. Its Boys & Girls Club facility opened as a shelter, and Jim Grant, with the parish's Faith Community Care organization, says the old Fruit of the Loom plant in Abbeville is also being considered. Credeur says every parish in the area is being asked to open facilities for shelter. The Rayne Civic Center is also housing evacuees. "I'm trying to open up some more shelters around the Crowley area," says OPH representative Lee Hebert. "There are more people coming in from Texas and trying to get closer to their homes."

Although local churches are willing to open their doors, Credeur says the Red Cross is focusing on large buildings as shelters that can house a thousand or more people. "Anyone can open a shelter," he says, "but resources are being centralized into big shelters." Trahan and Credeur ask that churches contact Brignac to coordinate a church shelter effort.

Currently, Credeur is unsure how a coordinated effort to place evacuees in local homes would work. "We've gotten a lot of requests for that," he says. "People need to realize a family would be with them long term, not just for a couple days, possibly several months." Trahan's concern is safety. "You've got to think about it carefully," she says. "Taking strangers into your home, you need to be realistic about it. I know it's the Christian thing to do. [The United Way] is not going to take on that liability risk. We cannot."

Trahan hopes this initial meeting will be the first of many to continue a sustained local volunteer effort. Another meeting is scheduled for Sept. 7 at 9 a.m. and on following Wednesdays for as long as needed. "We will take this problem by problem, day by day," she says.

United Way of Acadiana - 981-9441
United Way Volunteer Center - 233-8302
232-HELP - Dial 211 or 232-HELP from a cell phone
American Red Cross - (866) GET-INFO
Medical Volunteers - (225) 763-5763 or (225) 763-5762
Boat Volunteers - (225) 925-7500
Food Net - 232-FOOD

232-HELP (211) - accepting calls for volunteers, general information, help finding family members and rescue operations.

Blackham Coliseum - accepting donations of pet supplies, like food, newspapers, carriers and bowls. Call 482-5738.

Blue Cross Blue Shield - granting customers access to all doctors and hospitals for covered medical services and 30-day extensions for payments in affected parishes. Call (800) 599-BLUE.

Cajundome - serving as a shelter; needs air mattresses, medical volunteers, cooks and people skilled in dealing with children and the physically and mentally handicapped. Call 232-3140.

City Club at River Ranch - accepting donations of foam mattresses, sleeping bags, towels, pillows, linens, baby items, wet wipes, toiletries, bottled water and non-perishable food. Call 216-6529.

Community Foundation of Acadiana - accepting tax-deductible contributions. Make checks payable to Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund and mail to P.O. Box 3892, Lafayette, LA 70502-3892, or call 266-2145.

Evangeline Apartments - accepting donations for elderly evacuees, including bedding, pillows, towels, toiletries, shower curtains, detergent, toilet paper and tissue, paper products and utensils. Go to 302 Jefferson St. or call 233-3818.

Fig Tree Music - making T-shirts for sale and asking for donations; creating a Web site at

Food Net - accepting food donations and organizing a Food for Families food drive. Call 232-FOOD or drop off at Food Net office at 307 Amedee Road and all Albertsons, Wal-Mart and Super 1 locations.

Goodwill of Acadiana - accepting school supply donations, uniforms, booksacks, children's undergarments and socks and shoes at all locations: 3803 Ambassador Caffery, 2435 W. Congress St., 1809 Johnston St., 1427 Creswell Lane in Opelousas, 5718 Cameron Street in Scott, 1003 E. Admiral Doyle Drive in New Iberia and 1214 Albertsons Parkway in Broussard.

Grand Contemporary - identifying temporary homes and studio spaces for displaced artists. Call 235-5252 or (225) 281-9953.

Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce - providing business relocation and available office space information and organizing a drive to help children entering our schools; lists emergency management and hurricane relief numbers. Call 233-2705.

Hampton Inn & Suites - donating $1 to the Red Cross for every room booked. Call 266-5858.

KATC TV-3 - publishing a Katrina Survivor Connector List at

Lafayette Catholic Service Centers - handing out Wal-Mart gift cards to evacuees and serving two meals a day at St. Joseph Diner. Go to 401 St. John St. for gift cards and 403 W. Simcoe for the diner. Call LCSC at 235-4972 and the diner at 232-8434.

Lafayette High School - accepting donations for toiletries, uniforms and school supplies.

Lafayette Parish School System - enrolling evacuees as students and taking donations of school supplies and uniforms at the Vermilion Conference Center. Call 233-1787, 233-0572, 235-3696 or 235-1424.

Lafayette Public Library - free family movies in the main library meeting room from 2-4 p.m. daily and offering additional computers with Internet access and laptop access. Go to 301 W. Congress St. or call 261-5787.

Louisiana Realtors Association - accepting donations for a relief fund at Regions Bank, account # 4305095042. Call 233-0086.

Louisiana State Bar Association - accepting donations to the Hurricane Katrina Legal Community Relief Fund; make donations to Baton Rouge Bar Foundation, 544 Main St., Baton Rouge, LA 70802. Call 344-4803.

Louisiana Technical College and South Louisiana Community College - enrolling displaced students. Call 262-5962 for technical college and 521-8896 for community college or go to or

MidSouth Bank - accepting donations for Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund at all state locations. Call 237-8343.

Prejean's Restaurant - offering $3 boxed meals to go for evacuees with an ID. Call 896-3247 or (866) 290-0840, Ext. 2, or go to 3480 I-49 Service Road North.

Salvation Army - accepting clothing donations at 115 E. 3rd St. and 212 6th St. Call 234-1830 or 235-2407.

Schumacher Group - collecting supplies for New Orleans hospitals; major needs are large, 18-wheeler-size ventilated vehicles, radios, retired policemen and 4- to 5-gallon cans of gas. Call (800) 893-9698, Ext. 1101, or 237-1915, Ext. 1101.

Spherion - offering jobs for evacuees. Call 298-1055, 654-8483, 288-1060 or fax 332-5715.

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church - accepting donations of bottled water at 400 Camellia Blvd. Call 984-3848.

Teche Federal Bank - collecting monetary and non-perishable donations at all of its branches; make donations to Katrina Disaster Relief Fund account # 52552221, routing # 265270222.

UL Lafayette - enrolling displaced college students. Call 482-5912 or go to the Admissions Office in Martin Hall.

United Blood Services - accepting much-needed donations of blood at 1503 Bertrand Drive. Call 235-5433.

United Way of Acadiana - coordinating volunteer efforts through its Volunteer Center, taking donations to the Hurricane Katrina Response Fund at

United Way of Acadiana Volunteer Center - taking calls for volunteers, general information and volunteer efforts. Go to 4023 Ambassador Caffery or call 233-8302.

Zydetech - offering office space at Abdalla Hall for technology-based businesses. Call 781-5327.

Cajundome - 232-3140, fax 232-3552
Heymann Performing Arts Center (special needs shelter) - 291-5540
Blackham Coliseum (pet shelter) - 482-5738
Calvary Baptist Church - 269-0976
Hope Alive Community Worship, Broussard - 839-2651
Rayne Civic Center - 334-9976
Church of Christ, Crowley - 781-0803
New Life Church in Christ, Opelousas - 948-3270
Yambilee Building, Opelousas - 948-8848
First Baptist Church, Eunice - 457-2361
First Baptist Church, Abbeville - 893-0982
Boys & Girls Clubs, Abbeville - 898-9745