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Money helps the most, charities say

By LEONORA LaPETER, Times Staff Writer
Published September 2, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - Local charitable groups are asking people to continue donating money for victims of Hurricane Katrina instead of clothes or food because they aren't sure how to get supplies to people who need them.

"What you're really seeing here is a disaster relief effort of a different kind," said Chip Collins, branch manager of the St. Petersburg office of the American Red Cross. "They're really trying to get people out of the affected areas . . . as opposed to getting things into (them)."

The American Red Cross has opened hundreds of shelters in 16 states, including one in Tarpon Springs. As of Friday afternoon, the relief agency had collected $196.9-million nationally. That's up from $71.6-million two days earlier.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy on Friday said total aid for Katrina nationwide has reached $219-million. The publication said Americans gave $239-million in the 10 days after Sept. 11 and $30-million in the three days following the tsunami.

Aid to the hurricane victims also is coming from the federal government and overseas. Congress was pushing through a $10.5-billion aid package Friday, and more than three dozen countries pledged help.

"This is the largest mobilization that the American Red Cross has ever had in its 25-year history," said Stacey Grissom, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Collins, of the St. Petersburg office, did not have a total figure for how much has come in to date locally, but during 21/2 hours Wednesday morning, his office took in $10,000. One boy donated everything in his piggy bank, plus this week's allowance, a grand total of $12.

Officials at United Way of Tampa Bay had a Katrina donation Web site running by Tuesday and donations have poured in, said spokeswoman Pam Settle. On Friday, the agency raised $20,000.

Goodwill Industries-Suncoast also is encouraging cash donations, but it will convert donated items to cash in its stores, then write a check to its relief fund.

The Salvation Army, meanwhile, is accepting only money for hurricane victims, said Daniel Nelson, who works for the Salvation Army of St. Petersburg.

"It's the most effective way to help them," he said.

-- Information from the New York Times and the Associated Press was used in this story.

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