Chicago organizations join in Haitian relief effort

January 14, 2010 4:13:06 AM PST
A massive relief effort is underway to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. People around the world and in Chicago are offering their help to survivors.It's hard to know what the death toll will be- or how great the need, but the people of Haiti will need help.

"We need maybe some hospitals, some medicine and some doctors," said President Rene Preval, Haiti.

In Chicago, disaster relief organizations are in action. Local staff of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago strategized Wednesday to meet the need. The Chicago CEO of the American Red Cross said the best way to help is to make a donation.

"We have three American Red Cross workers on the ground in Haiti. We have been in touch with them. They're safe, but they're telling us that the devastation and the injuries are extraordinarily serious," said Fran Maher, American Red Cross.

A spokesman for the American Red Cross says the aid organization has already run out of medical supplies in Haiti. It will send more as soon as possible.

The local office of CARE is stepping up its fundraising. CARE has more than 100 employees in Haiti; they have only accounted for 40. The non governmental organization is sending more staff and knows that money will make the most difference for Haitians.

"We've been there since 1954 and we have a lot of operations going on. So people in Chicago, what they can do is donate money to our efforts," said Tom Hanschman, C.A.R.E.

On the North Side of Chicago, the Haitian American Community Association has been getting calls from concerned relatives. The association's leadership is eager to help- but is waiting to get more information from people in Haiti.

"If you have some information, then you will be able to content yourself with that, whether good news or bad news. But not knowing anything at all is really something," said Jacques Leblanc, Haitian American Community Association.

Volunteers in Aurora Wednesday night had a huge job ahead packaging nonperishable items to provide nutrition. There will be great demand throughout Haiti.

"Once it gets there, it is our partner's responsibility to receive the food and make sure it is going where it is intended to go," said Denise Gallina, Feed My Starving Children.

The group has been providing meals in the impoverished country for more than a decade. Last year alone, some 25 million but the need now is greater than ever.

Leaders in several South and West Side churches are planning their own relief efforts. Jesse Jackson plans to lead a mission of ministers to Haiti in the next couple of days.

"People can be very comfortable given the organizations, knowing that it will actually help the people on the ground there," said Rev. Marshall Hatch, Leaders Network.

"The devastation was so catastrophic, it makes you want to cry," said Rev. Gregory Livingston, Operation Push.

On Wednesday night, a group of close to 200 Haitian Americans gathered in a conference room deeply concerned about what they have seen and heard so far coming out of Haiti. All of them want to help.

"Right now they need food, water, emergency care but someone needs money to buy all of this stuff," said Jackie Muhammad.

The Red Cross was among those in Evanston Wednesday night. They have people on the ground already in Haiti. They suggest people that want to help should stick with established organizations like the Red Cross.

"There are also scam artists coming out of the wood work," said Steve Bernas, Better Business Bureau.

The Red Cross and the CARE organization say the greatest need is for financial contributions. The Red Cross has committed $1 million to Haiti.

As Chicagoans feel moved to act, there is some caution to know the organization to which you contribute and know where your money will go.

Better Business Bureau:

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says, "today, more than 25,000 legitimate charitable organizations are registered with the AG's office. These organizations regularly provide us with information about their income, expenditures, programs and administrators. If you are interested in learning more about a particular organization, or want to know if a charity that has solicited you for a donation is registered, please contact the Charitable Trust Bureau at 312-814-2595 during regular business hours."