The words "charity begins at home" have never meant more.
Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, more than $1 billion has been donated for hurricane relief. The amount is significantly more than was raised in the two weeks after September 11th ($558 million) and the Asian tsunami ($406 million), according to the Sept. 20th issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Of that amount, the American Red Cross received the most, at $762.5 million, nearly 50% is donated ONLINE.
"The American Red Cross has been entrusted with a great deal of the fuel that will burn the humanitarian engine," said Dean Dimke, executive director of the Palm Beach County chapter. "We won't let them down. We're using the money to rebuild lives affected by Hurricane Katrina."
The relief fund spearheaded by former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton grew into a philanthropic juggernaut, bringing in $100 million to date. The Salvation Army is third with $85.7 million.
The Chronicle called the flood of charitable dollars "unprecedented in American history."
Dimke pointed out that local Red Cross supporters have been particularly forthcoming. The local chapter is "well over the $5 million mark," he said.
Beth Walton, of the Palm Beach Community Chest/United Way, said she was "not surprised at all" by the outpouring. "Americans are the most generous people in the world.
Walton attributed the response to "a combination of things."
After Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, "all of a sudden those awful images from the tsunami weren't coming from the other side of the world. They were coming from our own backyards. It hit home."
Also a factor, Walton said, is the media. "Previously, with charities like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, we didn't see the televised appeals like we're seeing now. The relief agencies have made very efficient use of television."
Don't expect those televised appeals to end anytime soon, Dimke said.
"Right now, the American Red Cross believes that the effort will take $2 billion. We're still asking for donations. When we reach the amount it'll take we'll quit asking. But believe me, we're not there yet."
© 2005 Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.