09/22/05 — Katrina efforts slowed but didn't stop United Way drive

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Katrina efforts slowed but didn't stop United Way drive

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on September 22, 2005 1:49 PM

Hurricane Katrina has slowed the momentum of this year's United Way campaign, but it has not hurt donations that much, according to Jane Rustin, 2005 campaign chairman.

The total currently stands at 21.89 percent, about $311,932.50. Ms. Rustin said the total this time last year was 22.8 percent. "So, it's lagging just a little. We're close."

"I think a lot of attention has been focused, as it should be, on Katrina and her victims. I'm hoping that now that everybody's focused and we know that help is on the way, we'll be able to refocus on our local needs."

She said the disaster along the Gulf coast is tough to see.

"(It's) certainly tearing at everybody's heartstrings when you see their plight, but we don't see what's going on in our own community," she said. "There are great needs here also."

She said Wayne County people have a lot of common sense, and she hopes they understand that they have to take care of their own, too.

"While it's a wonderful thing to give to those in need in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, we really need the support here," she said. "Our agencies are still doing everyday work."

Mrs. Rustin said she's confident that when people really think about it, they will understand that if they don't support the United Way campaign, it's going to be devastating to its agencies.

"The campaign is about the community," she said. "And we do care, and we're showing that and it's wonderful to see."

Mrs. Rustin said that with Hurricane Katrina, we can see faces. She said that's one reason United Way's new campaign video is so effective this year because donors can see faces right here in this community who have received local help.

"Those needs are just as great in many cases ,and we've got to have that safety net here," she said. "(The hurricane) does make people stop and think 'what if it happened here?' and understand that on a much smaller scale, there is devastation in Wayne County."

She referred to the homeless, those who have lost everything in house fires, those who have lost their jobs.

Mrs. Rustin is confident Wayne County will step up to take care of these people. She said she believes Hurricane Katrina has even heightened awareness of local needs.

"I think we're on track," she said. "We just had great news from the hospital. They have run a campaign and right now are projecting about $186,000, which is phenomenal. They did about $160,000 last year. The community college has gone up and The News-Argus every year continues to amaze."

She said if the campaign keeps going like this, it will be successful.

"We're talking about improving lives," Mrs. Rustin said. "Think of all those lives; every extra $50 is another person helped. Think about your neighbors in need and open up your heart. Through giving, you feel better. A community is finally judged not on its stores and restaurants and all those nice things, but on the way it takes care of each other. I believe that Wayne County takes care of each other."

The campaign will end by Thanksgiving.