Thursday, November 03, 2005

A request for help.

I’m sorry if you get this message several times from several sources. I’m trying to reach as many of our friends as possible to ask for your help.

Like most of you, Rossana and I watched as Katrina became the worst natural disaster in recent history. We watched the dramatic rescues. We sat in front of the TV and witnessed as things went from bad to worse. We grew frustrated and then angry at what we were seeing. We wanted to help, so we made a donation to the Red Cross. But like any large agency, it has not been able to get help down to the local level. And the Red Cross is, by its nature, an emergency response agency, not a recovery agency. I won’t even go into the problems with FEMA. They are handling large scale issues and have not been effective at getting help to many areas.

The helicopter rescues are over and the cameras have left town. Other stories have pushed the disaster off the front page of the papers and the tv. Which is sad, because the hardest part is yet to come.

Although the hurricanes are over, the destruction from Katrina and Rita is still being keenly felt by the people of the Gulf Coast.

For the past few weeks I have been following the efforts of two groups. Hands on USA and Common Grounds

Both groups are attempting to help individuals and neighborhoods recover from this disaster. Hand on USA is helping perform debris removal, helping distribute aid and performing temporary repairs on homes in Biloxi. Common Grounds is operating a Medical Clinic, and is mobilizing a large volunteer force to help clean up the 9th Ward in New Orleans.

I know a lot of us donated money and some even tried to volunteer to go help but were thwarted by red tape and logistical problems getting into damaged areas. Now that the roads are mostly open and relief groups are established volunteers can finally start helping out. On November 11th Rossana and I are heading down to help with recovery efforts. I know a lot of you would do the same if you could, but keeping ones job and paying bills is pretty damn important too. Since we are self employed we can dedicate the time to this project without worrying about if we will have a job when we get back.

We wouldn’t mind staying a few months, but the reality is we can only stay until the 27th (on this trip). The other reality is that it will take a lot of gas to move us and our gear down there. A rough estimate based on current gas prices places the cost in the $300 - $400 range round trip.

That’s why we’re sending out this email. We’re asking for help to defray this cost. If you can spare $5 or $10 I have set up a paypal account for donations. I know its kinda crass to ask for donations, but the faire season wasn’t as outstanding as we’d hoped, and we still want to go down and do our small part.

This money will only be used to get us there and back. If one cent is left over then we will donate it to Common Grounds. If you want to help these groups directly (and I hope you do), go to their websites and donate. Both of these groups are small, fast moving and use more of the donations for direct relief.

If anyone can take off work for a week or two and wants to join us, we’d be happy to have you along. Just email me ( I can supply you with a list of stuff you should bring. No special skills are needed, this is sheer grunt work. We have all the tools we should need. Hands on USA will provide shelter and basic food (MRE’s) in Biloxi; the situation in New Orleans will be rougher. Resources are limited and we will likely be in tents and have to bring in our own food.

If you want to keep track of our progress I will be posting stories and photos to my blog at as often as time, energy and phone service allows.

The gulf coast will take a long time to recover, but it will recover. Day by day, house by house, person by person.

Thanks for your help everyone.

Steve and Rossana

Photos of Hand on USA at work :

Stories about Katrina Relief failures:

If you don’t have a paypal you can send your donation to us at home:

Steve Pack and Rossana Fichera

20350 Mosher Rd.

Wellington, OH 44090


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