Katrina sets back fundraising

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

Natchez &8212; While there is never a good time for a natural disaster, the timing of Hurricane Katrina was particularly detrimental to the fundraising efforts of the Miss-Lou Chapter of the United Way.

The chapter kicked off a drive to raise $300,000 to help fund 21 local non-profit agencies Aug. 25. After a good start, the monetary thermometer outside of the Adams County Courthouse failed to rise very much after Katrina made land

Aug. 29.

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&8220;It set us back, as you can imagine,&8221; chapter director Kathy Stephens said. &8220;Instead of where we should be, we&8217;re two months behind.&8221;

So far, $165,500 has been raised.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma, people in the Miss-Lou have given generously to national aid organizations.

That&8217;s part of the problem for the locally focused United Way charity umbrella.

&8220;Because people have given to large organizations, it&8217;s slowed down fund-raising here to an extent,&8221; Stephens said.

This is not a new phenomenon: Every major disaster elicits contributions that might otherwise have gone to a local charity.

Stephens&8217; job now is to make sure people don&8217;t forget about the people in the Miss-Lou who also need help.

&8220;It&8217;s important to remember that if people don&8217;t fund the charities at home, there will be people cold this winter and in danger,&8221; Stephens said.

Both the Natchez-Adams and the Concordia Council on Aging use funding they get from the United Way to provide close to 100,000 meals to elderly people in the Miss-Lou.

The Natchez-Adams County chapter of the American Red Cross receives 30 percent of its $50,000 budget from the United Way.

&8220;The Red Cross and the United Way have always worked closely together,&8221; chapter Chief Executive John Goodrich said.

The 21 groups &8212; plus a potential 22nd member, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Miss-Lou &8212; will meet with Stephens today to discuss funding needs of each organization.

While Stephens is confident the rest of the money will be raised by the end of the year, she said there is an emergency fund the group can tap into to ensure services continue.

Other organizations that receive funding from the United Way are the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Associated Charities and the 4H Youth Clubs.

Scheduled to end Nov. 15, the drive will continue until the remaining $134,500 needed to fund fiscal 2006 is raised.

The campaign is made up of two elements, pledges made through the workplace and general solicitation.

Stephens said the United Way would send out a letter this week to remind people of the importance of donating.