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CURRENT ISSUE:  September 19, 2005VOL. 43, NO. 16Oakland, CA

Catholic Charities readies local teams to help evacuees

Catholic Charities of the East Bay is mobilizing teams of trained volunteers to work directly with victims of Hurricane Katrina now living here. The volunteers will act as case managers, helping families navigate bureaucratic tape to get federal assistance and begin reestablishing their lives.

“These families need help contacting FEMA, accessing Red Cross vouchers, getting their social security checks, and filing for unemployment,” said Millie Burns, CCEB’s director of planning and program development. They also need help finding housing and jobs, enrolling their children in schools, and resolving other issues.
Two recently arrived families must make funeral arrangements – one for a relative who died in New Orleans and another for a 34-year-old daughter who died on a plane enroute to Oakland, she said.

The first 10 volunteers have already participated in two days of Red Cross training and a day of orientation at Catholic Charities. They will be assigned to specific families to provide “a coordinated package of assistance,” said Burns.

The Red Cross estimates that more than 700 displaced families have arrived in the Bay Area, with about 400 families living in the homes of East Bay relatives.

“They will need a great deal of sustained support,” said Burns. “They will not recover in a few weeks. But the Catholic community is up to the task. We know how to welcome the stranger. We can do this.”

Catholic Charities is working closely with the Red Cross to coordinate “a coherent, efficient response,” said Adam See, CCEB’s development director.

Burns is hoping that volunteers, especially those with a background in social services or grief counseling, will step forward soon so she can develop additional teams. She also needs volunteers to staff a call center. Persons interested in helping should call Wanica Means at (510) 768-3121.

Catholic Charities also plans to ask local parishes to adopt Gulf Coast families now living in their midst. The parishes would offer practical help and raise funds for the family’s needs.

Burns said much of the emergency help available for families does not address such needs as first and last month’s rent and acquiring a car to get to work and appointments.

Parishes interested in the “Adopt a Family” program should contact Millie Burns at (510) 768-3188.


Priest headlines benefit concert

By Voice staff

Father Mark Wiesner, parochial administrator at St. Augustine Parish in Oakland, will headline a Sept. 25 benefit show with his traveling theater group, the Ruach Players, to raise money for survivors of the deadly hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast late last month.

The show will take place at 7 p.m. at Father Wiesner’s north Oakland church, 400 Alcatraz Ave. Admission is free; donations will be collected for Catholic Charities USA, which is assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The cabaret show will include standards, oldies and selections from “Godspell.”

Wanica Means, coordinator of volunteers at Catholic Charities of the East Bay, talks with Omar Butler of Richmond during an orientation for Katrina relief volunteers.



Catholic Charities’ Carol Spruell gives a lemonade drink to a girl from New Orleans now living in the St. Anthony of Padua Shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


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