Dear Friends of Plenty,
Last month I was in New Orleans and southern Louisiana and had a chance to interview some of the survivors we've been working with as they try to rebuild their lives. These folks haven't survived just Katrina. Immediately afer Katrina (2005) they got hit by hurricane Rita and then Gustav (2008) which was quickly followed by Ike. One of our good friends, who I had interviewed in the past, recently died of a heart attack. He was a young man with a wife and three kids. He never regained his health after Katrina and two years in a cramped FEMA trailer didn't do him any good. Another friend who lost everything and whose wife died from stress told me, "The only thing that keeps me sane is volunteering." The only thing left of his house is the slab of concrete it used to sit on. After his wife's funeral he started voluntering seven days a week. He told me, "Any time we see a volunteer who comes in here, it's a godsend. It makes us feel like at least we're important enough to bring people in to help and we'll need help for the next 15-20 years."
Plenty Gulf Coast Recovery volunteer and RN, Elaine Langley, has gotten to know Kimberly and Scott Roberts of the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Trouble the Water" which is their personal Katrina story told from inside the storm and the aftermath. In the words of the LA Times reviewer, it's a "story of community resilience in the face of government indifference." Don't miss it.
Far too many people I know have lost their jobs recently. I'm no economist but I'm getting the impression that nobody really has a firm clue about how to fix the current economic collapse. It certainly appears that the federal government is so far primarily concerned with covering what amounts to the horrendous gambling debts racked up by the nation's biggest and most reckless financial wheeers and dealers. Meanwhile, budget-strapped states are drastically cutting funding of the kinds of programs that benefit the poorest and neediest. Our volunteers in New Orleans who have been mostly working to help people fix their hurricane-damaged houses are now spending some of their time helping to feed the homeless whose numbers have doubled in the city since Katrina, from around 6,000 to more than 12,000, which represents the highest percentage of homeless (over 4%) of any major metropolitan population in the U.S. Nationwide studies report 3.5 million homeless, with 1.4 million being children, and these numbers are climbing. Whatever we do to fix things, let's make compassion, fairness and common sense the essential guiding principles.
There are about one million charities in the US and it has been estimated that 200,000 may have to shut down due to loss of funding. That's just here in the richest country in the world and this is a global economic crisis that's impacting efforts to deal with all the other global crises we face.
Happily, thanks to the simply amazing generosity of our friends and supporters such as yourself, Plenty will not have to shut down and in fact, if this level of support continues, we may be able to expand some of our programs and even take on some new projects. We're always trying to live up to the challenge working for an organization called "Plenty," whose literal meaning is more than enough."