Benefits to aid the victims of Katrina

As New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast struggles to repair the damage from Hurricane Katrina, students from several campus organizations have begun fund-raising efforts to help care for victims of the storm and rebuild their communities. The Yale College Council, fraternities and individual students alike are planning events including raffles and benefit concerts to raise money and awareness.

The University is also gearing up to enroll visiting students from affected New Orleans colleges for the fall term. The administration has not said how it will handle admissions for Yale College, but the Yale Law School announced it will open its gates to a select number of second- and third-year students from Tulane University Law School and Loyola University New Orleans School of Law. Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh posted an application form on the school’s Web site Friday.

The YCC and the American Red Cross at Yale will hold a benefit concert in Battell Chapel this Friday at 7 p.m. The concert will feature Yale a cappella groups Red Hot and Blue, The Duke’s Men, Living Water and The Society of Orpheus and Bacchus.

Several campus groups and individuals have also put together an umbrella group, the Hurricane Emergency Relief Organization, to coordinate relief efforts. HERO, in conjunction with the YCC, is planning a benefit dinner before the concert, to be held on Old Campus Friday at 6 p.m.

The YCC will collect money throughout the week in front of dining halls and on Cross Campus, which will be sent immediately to the Gulf Coast for relief, YCC President Steven Syverud ’06 said. The fund-raising project, called the Yale Collective Relief Fund, was started by Stephanie Speirs ’07 and now has more than 50 volunteers. In two days of fund-raising, the group has collected about $3,000 to be given to the Red Cross.

Speirs is a staff reporter and staff photographer for the Yale Daily News.

Eleonora Sharef ’07 is working with the YCC to plan the Friday dinner fund-raiser, which will feature food donated by local restaurants and a raffle of gift certificates for New Haven stores.

“This is the main Yale fund-raising event for the hurricane,” Sharef said. “It is an effort that comes from all different kinds of groups at Yale.”

A student from Colombia, Sharef said she decided to become involved in hurricane relief as a way to give back to the United States.

“Everyone is affected by this and everyone loves this country,” Sharef said.

At the moment the American Red Cross has identified money as its most critical need, but Syverud said the YCC may later hold drives for clothing, food and books.

“Our work on this is not going to last just one week,” Syverud said. “We’re looking at expanding our efforts.”

Speirs said several fraternities on campus have also held fund-raising events to amass contributions for the relief effort. Sigma Chi will hold a raffle, she said, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon collected donations at parties over the weekend.

“SAE raised $600 the other night from one of their late nights, and they’re going to be doing that again on Friday,” Speirs said.

Sigma Chi President Francisco Morales ’07 said his fraternity will be selling raffle tickets outside residential college dining halls for the next week and a half. The tickets will cost $5, and winners will receive prizes from local restaurants and businesses. The money will be donated to the Red Cross.

The Red Cross is one of 17 organizations providing aid to Hurricane Katrina victims that was given a four-star rating by Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities based on organizational efficiency and capacity. Higher-ranked charities spend smaller fractions of their money on fund raising and administration and more on programs and services, according to Charity Navigator’s Web site.

Almost all of the organizations who received the four-star rating are currently accepting only cash contributions, which they have used to purchase food, water and other supplies for hurricane victims. Most of the recommended charities accept donations online, making it easier for people to make small contributions.

AmeriCares, a four-star nonprofit disaster relief charity based in Stamford, sent three shipments of antibiotics and other medicines to the region over the past four days. Another recommended organization, Food For the Poor, is collecting donations of flashlights, soap and other specific items for hygiene packs to be distributed to hurricane victims, as well as cash.

For now, disaster-relief efforts are focused on feeding and sheltering the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the hurricane. But some organizations have begun drafting plans to rebuild New Orleans, once serious health and safety hazards are dealt with. Habitat for Humanity, an international charity that constructs housing for low-income families, is already recruiting volunteers via their Web site to help build new homes where old ones were destroyed by storm.

Syverud said the YCC may consider working with organizations such as Habitat during the rebuilding phase. The YCC will hold an organizational meeting to solicit ideas about relief efforts tonight at 8 p.m. in Room 208 of William L. Harkness Hall.

Eleanor Burgess ’07 helps raise donations in front of the Branford common room Monday night.
Zoe Pershing-Foley
Eleanor Burgess ’07 helps raise donations in front of the Branford common room Monday night.

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