Hurricane Response May Be Largest in U.S. History

The hurricane relief effort is anticipated to be the largest U.S. response in recent history, possibly surpassing that of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Churches and relief organizations have kept the support flowing to the Gulf States with more than $2.73 billion to date while state officials plea for more federal aid to get the ravaged cities back on their feet.

Just over three months after the first storm hit, the donations directed to the victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma have nearly reached the total sum of $2.8 billion contributed after the attacks in 2001.

"You look to the government for justice, and you look to the church and individuals for mercy," Janice Crouse, a senior fellow at Concerned Women for America, told the Washington Post, referring to the debated budget reconciliation bill. "I think Hurricane Katrina is a good example of that. FEMA just failed, and the church and the Salvation Army and corporations stepped in and met the need."

Among the relief agencies and non profit organizations, the American Red Cross received the largest share of donations of 67 percent for the Gulf Coast region. The $1.82 billion collected is being used to provide shelter, food, financial assistance, and mental-health services to hurricane survivors, and to train volunteers to provide disaster relief, according to a report released on Tuesday by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Second on the list was The Salvation Army which raised more than $295 million and following the Christian organization was Catholic Charities with a total collection of $132.9 million.

The Salvation Army anticipates the hurricane relief efforts to be the largest response it has ever undertaken, according to Melissa Temme, public relations specialist for the Christian organization. During the 9/11 crisis, The Salvation Army stayed on ground zero for two years, spending a total of $90 million. Currently, $80 million has already been spent on the emergency hurricane response alone and they are now just moving into long term recovery. Temme predicts the Army to stay on the storm-affected grounds for another 2.5-5 years.

Unprecedented efforts are also seen on the geographical scale with The Salvation Army and other agencies not only serving in the hardest-hit areas, but also in regions across the country where storm evacuees have spanned out to.

Besides the 1906 San Francisco earthquakes and the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, which have no record of statistics, the recent hurricanes have galvanized one of the largest relief and recovery efforts in U.S. history, if not the largest. And Christian and aid agencies have been a major player in the responses.

The following is a list from the Chronicle of Philanthropy of other U.S. organizations involved in relief efforts along the Gulf Coast and the funds they’ve raised:

• Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, in New York, has raised more than $100-million.
• Habitat for Humanity, in Americus, Ga., has raised more than $76-million.
• United Way of America, in Alexandria, Va., has raised more than $45-million.
• Samaritan's Purse, in Boone, N.C., has raised $34-million.
• Baton Rouge Area Foundation, in La., has raised $27.5-million.
• America's Second Harvest, in Chicago, has raised $26.9-million.
• United Methodist Committee on Relief, in New York, has raised $26-million.
• Humane Society of the United States, in Washington, has raised $23-million.
• Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Foundation, in Chicago, has raised more than $20-million.
• AmeriCares Foundation, in Stamford, Conn., has raised $11.5-million.
• Mercy Corps, in Portland, Ore., has raised $10-million.
• Save the Children, in Westport, Conn., has raised $5-million.
• Direct Relief International, in Santa Barbara, Calif., has raised $3.88-million.
• United States Fund for Unicef, in New York, has raised nearly $2.3-million.
• Operation USA, in Los Angeles, has raised $1.2-million.
• National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States, in Washington, has raised more than $1-million.
• Brother's Brother Foundation, in Pittsburgh, has raised $710,000