In the wake of overwhelming need of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, thankfully a number of us are voicing irritation with the inquiry, “How important do you think that faith-based organizations are to helping people”?
Before ANY organization — government agency of any kind or national nonprofit — made a move, faith organizations had already moved. In San Antonio, where several Russian students were among New Orleans evacuees, Victory Fellowship, a faith-based, privately funded substance abuse treatment program, simply did the obvious. Victory Fellowship staff picked up the students, took them back to the Victory facility, let them get cleaned up, fed them, and let them call home.
Up to that point, these students had not been allowed to call to notify families that they had, in fact, survived the hurricane. Tragically assuming the worst, several families were already arranging funeral services in Russia. And I hesitate to even relay this story; given the media reporting patterns of late, the issue will turn not from the tremendous things being done without a dime of public money but rather who is to blame that these students weren’t allowed to call home.
We highlighted the immediate action of ABC Pregnancy Resource Center in Lake Charles, LA, as evidence of the helping opportunities available to people all over the country. Two Little Rock, AR, churches saw this story, contacted ABC for specific needs, loaded trucks with those supplies—and more—and headed south. According to Neta Mire, ABC’s director, “The response has been simply incredible. People have sent money, brought specific items that were needed, and apologized for not being able to do more. One organization even paid to overnight diapers, clothes, baby formula, and a new car seat to us immediately after Katrina evacuees arrived in Lake Charles.
THEN Rita hit Lake Charles and frankly, neither we nor new Little Rock friends have been able to find the ABC Center folks.
Some organizations, including the Nation Center for Responsible Philanthropy decry recent charitable giving incentives (CARE Act, Katrina Tax Relief Package [Bill Number S.1696]) and laud exponentially increased, no doubt, funding for government capacity. And gross inferences about motives are nonetheless irresponsible: “Since corporate charity is increasingly in the form of donated goods and services as opposed to what charities really need—cash—one might suppose that there are some highly self-interested corporate lobbyists involved with corporations that have some prodigious loads of product to dump and are looking for some extra benefits for their corporate sponsors.” Mr. Cohen demonstrates his lack of “in the trenches” experience; the charities such as ABC specifically asked for donated product, and were thrilled to get exactly what they asked for. May the vehicles that generate these win-win relationships for small, locally based charities increase.