How do I volunteer for Katrina recovery efforts?
September 13, 2005 2:51 PM   Subscribe

The Red Cross requires a three-week hitch, getting me back two days too late for my calendar. FEMA doesn't want help. I'm told that there are organizations across the country who are looking for volunteers to help with all manner of aid for Katrina victims. I just need a floor to sleep on and three squares, and I'll work 18 hours days feeding dogs or helping people fill out paperwork or cook food or whatever. Can anybody point me to some such organizations?
posted by waldo to Society & Culture (21 answers total)
Check the Katrina Help Wiki for listings.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:58 PM on September 13, 2005

I think the Humane Society of the United States is looking for people pretty aggressively.
posted by lilboo at 3:16 PM on September 13, 2005

The Red Cross out here (SF Bay Area) offers a minimum of a 9 day hitch. I've got a colleague off on a 9 day effort now, and I'm trying to work it out to go next week. Have you checked with your local Red Cross to find out if that's possible for you?
posted by jasper411 at 3:24 PM on September 13, 2005

Response by poster: Dang, these are tough to volunteer for. The Humane Society wants me to carry enough food for the duration of my stay. I may have hiked the AT, but I don't know how to carry that much food. (I think they're expecting people to drive there with campers and pickups and the like, which is cool, only I live 1,000 miles away.) And the Katrina Help Wiki is rather specific, which is fine, but since I don't have a cache of prescription drugs, and I'm not an EMT, I'm not sure of what to do there.

I hope I can talk the Red Cross into going for a few days less, as you suggest, Tom. I've got a call in to their local HQ, and maybe something will come of that. Still, if I could find another organization who needs somebody to just plain work, that'd be swell.
posted by waldo at 3:36 PM on September 13, 2005

Best answer: FEMA doesn't want help

Patently untrue. In fact, I have been asked time and again to sine up for training by my FEMA palls, in the last two weeks. And I ain't that special. If interested, contact your regional office via phone and inquire.
posted by johnj at 4:01 PM on September 13, 2005

Why not leave three days early?
posted by flummox at 4:33 PM on September 13, 2005

I'm not sure if you want to drive to Memphis for this, but I spent the past weekend helping people fill out paperwork for Red Cross checks and loading semi trailers.

If you're interested, we managed to latch on to a church in the area that only required four hours per shift.
posted by AmaAyeRrsOonN at 4:35 PM on September 13, 2005

Response by poster: Why not leave three days early?

a) Because I think it would be a crappy thing to bail on them.
b) Because I don't have the money to buy my own plane ticket home. :) (I got married last week. I'm tapped!)
posted by waldo at 4:59 PM on September 13, 2005

Response by poster: Patently untrue. In fact, I have been asked time and again to sine up for training by my FEMA palls, in the last two weeks. And I ain't that special. If interested, contact your regional office via phone and inquire.

Wow, too bad FEMA hasn't gotten the memo to update their website. :) That's great news, John -- I'll contact their Richmond office in the morning.
posted by waldo at 5:08 PM on September 13, 2005

Noprob. FYI - sent ya an email.
posted by johnj at 5:58 PM on September 13, 2005

Come over to Lafayette, and I will put you to work, I promise you. There are never enough people, and a lot of work to be done. We are in Lafayette's Cajundome. Come to the volunteer desk and ask for the Daily Dome guy.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:07 PM on September 13, 2005

Response by poster: Come over to Lafayette, and I will put you to work, I promise you.?

I really and truly hope that response will be useful to people in the area, but I live just a hair under 1,000 miles away. I got married a week ago. All of my money went into the wedding hole. My credit card is completely maxed out. No money for a planet ticket. Certainly no money for gasoline. If I could get there, I'd be at the Cajundome in the morning, ready to work 12-18 hour days for the next 2-3 weeks. Seriously.

Maybe I'll have some luck with FEMA in the morning, or maybe the Red Cross will let me sign up for a 19-day hitch.
posted by waldo at 7:25 PM on September 13, 2005

Hey waldo, I have to run, but send me an email. We have a fund and will be able to help you out a little if the other avenues with a free ticket don't work. Put "MeFi Hurricane Fund" in the subject heading and you'll grab my attention. Either way, I'll get back to you tomorrow.
posted by fionab at 8:11 PM on September 13, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you for that link, Serena. However, over the past hour, I went through every single website listed on Google's volunteer opportunities page. One -- Humanity First, USA -- is seeking volunteers, but only "if you are located relatively close to the Gulf coast region." Everybody just wants money which, while no doubt useful, I can't offer.

Fiona, your offer is fantastically wonderful, but should surely be reserved for somebody with some sort of special skills or great needs. I'm just some schlub. It's starting to look like they have enough schlubs in the Gulf region that they don't need to import new ones. $300 spent on a plane ticket for me will get far less of a return, I'll warrant, than $300 worth of bottled water, or lumber, or diapers, or whatever.

I feel really stupid. I've got time. I want to help. It's amazing to me that I can't seem to put 2+2 together to do something useful. Maybe enough people are volunteering that they don't need my help?
posted by waldo at 9:46 PM on September 13, 2005

this site is mirrored on

and is a decent list of home-grown, community-led organizations working for more of the long-term issues, like the right of return, reparations, and the community development that will be overlooked or made more difficult because of the economic development. Many are working in Jackson, MS and Houston as well as Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

specifically, CLU is filling my inbox lately, they are going above and beyond FEMA and trying to set up schools

"Community Labor United (CLU), a coalition of the progressive organizations throughout New Orleans, has brought community members together for eight years to discuss socio-economic issues. We have been communicating with people from The Quality Education as a Civil Right Campaign, the Algebra Project, the Young People's Project and the Louisiana Research Institute for Community Empowerment.

# We are calling for all New Orleanians remaining in the city to be evacuated immediately.
# We are calling for information about where every evacuee was taken. We are calling for black and progressive leadership to come together to meet in Baton Rouge to initiate the formation of a Community Oversight Committee of evacuees from all the sites. This committee will demand to oversee FEMA, the Red Cross and other organizations collecting resources on behalf of our people.
# We are calling for volunteers to enter the shelters where our people are and to assist parents with housing, food, water, health care and access to aid.
# We are calling for teachers and educators to carve out some time to come to evacuation sites and teach our children." We are calling for city schools and universities near evacuation sites to open their doors for our children to go to school.
# We are calling for health care workers and mental health workers to come to evacuation sites to volunteer.
# We are calling for lawyers to investigate the wrongful death of those who died, to protect the land of the displaced, to investigate whether the levies broke due to natural and other related matters.
# We are calling for evacuees from our community to actively participate in the rebuilding of New Orleans.
# We are calling for the addresses of all the relevant list serves and press contacts to send our information.

We are in the process of setting up a central command post in Jackson, MS, where we will have phone lines, fax, email and a web page to centralize information. We will need volunteers to staff this office.

We have set up a People's Hurricane Fund that will be directed and administered by New Orleanian evacuees. Donations can be MADE OUT TO VANGUARD PUBLIC FOUNDATION AND EARMARKED FOR:

The People's Hurricane Fund
c/o Vanguard Public Foundation
383 Rhode Island St., #301
San Francisco, CA 94103

If you have comments of how to proceed or need more information, please email them to Curtis Muhammad ( and Becky Belcore ("
posted by eustatic at 12:09 AM on September 14, 2005

Katrina victims are being sent all over the country, not just the Gulf Coast. Your profile lists Charlottsville as your location. search the volunteer section on craigslist for Washington, DC. That wouldn't be too far of a road trip for you, and DC will probably get an influx of refugees since it's a large city.
posted by furvyn at 1:38 AM on September 14, 2005

Here's a thought . . . Habitat for Humanity is going to need lots of help, in the comming months. Maybe you can help out at another time.
posted by johnj at 3:02 AM on September 14, 2005

The group I went with while obviously a Christian organization, is still needing volunteers. Especially in the next week or two when they move their operation from Gulfport, MS to NOLA. Check them out here.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 6:15 AM on September 14, 2005

Response by poster: Habitat for Humanity is going to need lots of help, in the comming months. Maybe you can help out at another time.

God help me if I'm still unemployed then but, yes, I figure there will be years of work then. Now is just a particularly good time for me, since I'm between jobs. But your point is well taken.

FEMA tells me that volunteering can be done via the National Emergency Resource Registry. The site is obviously set up for people to offer stuff (lumber, water, food, etc.), but it's possible to use it to register to volunteer, which I did this morning.

Thanks for the additional tips here, folks. I'm following up on all of them.
posted by waldo at 9:26 AM on September 14, 2005

I considered posting a question identical to yours last week. Thank you for your initiative, waldo. :) I shall now piggyback off the results.
posted by Hankins at 9:46 AM on September 14, 2005

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