If a relief group is not funded by the government (as is the Red Cross, which has cost reimbursement contracts with all levels of government to provide shelter and disaster services) or does not have a mega-business generating over $1.5B a year (the Red Cross again, through its sale of donated blood; but also the Salvation Army through its $1B Thrift Shop empire; and, even Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing through its parent, the Christian Broadcast Network), then the “Mothers Milk” of funds necessary to mount an effective relief effort must come from those little “How To Help” boxes in print, electronic, televised and other media.
Imagine Operation USA’s surprise when the only groups listed in the first 2 days after Hurricane Katrina struck were a dozen faith-based groups and the Red Cross. When we spoke with the Associated Press, which transmitted the initial list of agencies across the United States to thousands of media outlets, we were told the “list came from FEMA and/or the White House”. Some of the groups are pillars of church communities across the US and are in fact quite competent at relief; others, like Operation Blessing, are—well—part of Pat Robertson’s non-profit and for-profit empire.
Operation USA’s niche is focused on providing material aid to community clinics in urban and rural areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. They are the institutions off-radar for major funding [the Red Cross, again, does not fund non-Red Cross agencies so its mega-bucks won’t be funding a clinic in the Mississippi Delta any time soon].
Operation USA, a 26 year-old international relief agency, is in Los Angeles. It has warehouses (2) full of useful materials which will be sent to the Katrina impact zone as soon as the roads dry off and funds permit. It doesn’t accept US government funding for its work in 90 countries. Call them at 1-800-678-7255 or via the web at www.opusa.org.