Hurricane Katrina Catch The Wave

September 9, 2005
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The ongoing reports of devastation and human suffering unfolding publicly before a stunned nation are mind-boggling. It may take years — and, for some, lifetimes — to repair the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. And that’s assuming the damage can ever be repaired.

Initially, a bewildered public (and world) looked on as the federal government stumbled through disjointed relief efforts that would have been laughable had they not been so pitiful.

Even Afghanistan offered to send money to help the United States overcome its trauma.

From that initial fiasco, however, has emerged a concerted effort to find relief for that region of the country, and West Michigan is certainly doing its share to ease the pain.

Organizations such as Spring Lake-based International Aid are at the forefront of the effort, and seemingly every business in West Michigan is participating in some way to raise funds, collect material donations, find housing for displaced evacuees, transport supplies or offer employees’ assistance to the Gulf Coast and its survivors.

Not to be crass, but why does it take a national disaster the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina to raise our public awareness to the level of action?

Certainly West Michigan likes a goal. The region relishes a challenge. It is a result-oriented community that rolls up its sleeves and gets to the meat of the matter whenever there is a need.

So why doesn’t West Michigan care as much about the bread line as it does about the bottom line all the time?

In a community filled with philanthropists big and small, there are plenty of projects in need of support. Mel Trotter Ministries’ public inebriate shelter comes to mind. So, too, do Second Harvest Gleaners, Meals on Wheels and the North Kent Service Center.

The point is this: Help for the survivors and victims of Hurricane Katrina is needed and appreciated. However, when this crisis passes, maybe business owners in West Michigan should take the wave of goodwill created by Katrina relief and make every effort to sustain it locally.

“Adopt” a local project in need of funds and/or volunteers and partner with it.

If helping and giving makes employees feel good during a national crisis, think of how it would make them feel when meeting a local need year-round.

What Katrina wrecked will be fixed eventually. But while that region of the country struggles to recover with the help of money and manpower from here, don’t forget the struggles of so many worthy agencies and organizations in our own backyard.    

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