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News Briefs 

Food, shelter, and meds for Katrina's victims

Numerous local organizations and businesses are partnering with state and national groups to assist recovery efforts for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Monetary donations are being accepted at the American Red Cross, 1-800-HELPNOW or, the Salvation Army, 1-800-SALARMY or, and the San Antonio Food Bank, 337-3663 or Those wishing to contribute food items can drop them off directly at the Food Bank, 4311 Director Drive. Donations of blood are also needed at the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, 6211 I-10 W,

The San Antonio AIDS Foundation is offering counseling, medical assistance, and hot meals to displaced people with HIV. HIV-infected individuals in need of medical care will be linked to appropriate agencies through SAAF's client advocacy department. People who don't take their medication's regime can develop resistance to their drugs, and the cause for concern is more relevant when many refugees are struggling for the simple daily staples of life. For more information or to access services, call SAAF at 225-4715 and ask for Case Management. Walk-ins are welcome.

Whole Foods Market, 255 E. Basse, will accept customer donations as long as necessary. Donation slips are available at every register; money goes directly to the Red Cross. Marketing Director Suzy Holleron said Whole Foods will match the dollar amount of every customer's donation up to $1 million. The company also is partnering with their vendors to support The Gumbo Krewe, who became famous for setting up an outdoor kitchen for firefighters and rescue workers in New York after 9-11. The Krewe will be operating a mobile kitchen on Good Hope Street in Norco, just outside New Orleans. Holleron said Whole Foods is making an effort to help hundreds of team members displaced from the three stores in Louisiana. "Our leadership has guaranteed those team members' wages for one month, whether they work or not, and will also help them secure a position at another store so they may rebuild their lives."

CPS, OLLU, and the Children's Museum pitch in

On Wednesday, August 31, 36 CPS Energy employees from San Antonio responded to a call from Entergy Corp. for assistance in repairing electrical-system damage in Louisiana and Mississippi. Entergy estimates about 1.2 million of its customers are without power in storm-damaged areas.

Also on Wednesday, Compass Bank announced a comprehensive program to provide relief through a matching contribution to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, disaster-relief loans, and special financial assistance for Compass Bank employees. Compass has offered a matching donation of up to $250,000 to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Donations may be made through October 1 at any of the more than 385 Compass Bank centers with checks or money orders made payable to the American Red Cross.

The San Antonio Children's Museum accepted donations of new and gently used books, toys, and games last week. The toys will be distributed to children coming to the city from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Those interested in donating can find information on age-appropriate books, toys, and games by visiting the San Antonio Children's Museum website at

Our Lady of the Lake University is accepting students from colleges and universities impacted by the hurricane. Dr. Mary Kay Cooper, OLLU dean of enrollment, said the University will work with students individually to expedite admissions and enrollment, even though students may not have proper admissions documentation. "This was really a no-brainer," said Cooper. "There are people in need and we are all about outreach." In addition to educational resources, OLLU will provide limited student housing based on availability. Call 431-3961 for more information.

For those wishing to support military families displaced by the hurricane, USO San Antonio will be collecting funds that will be channeled to families in the impacted states. Call 227-9373 for more information.

Lawmakers propose measures to ease Katrina's aftermath

State representatives are also taking steps to help ease transition and recovery in the aftermath of the disaster. Representative Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) has asked Mayor Phil Hardberger and Governor Rick Perry to create a temporary policy that will waive the hotel and motel occupancy tax for Louisiana citizens who have fled to Texas. State law requires the collection of occupancy tax even in extreme circumstances. "Most, if not all of the hotels here in San Antonio and throughout Texas, are offering reduced rates for rooms to these evacuees," said Menendez in a prepared statement. "I think this offers another option as we come together to help our neighbors recover."

Amid reports of price gouging in East Texas and Houston, Representative David McQuade Leibowitz (D-San Antonio) promised to refile HB 695, which would have prohibited price gouging on essential goods and services after a disaster. Current Texas laws against price gouging are triggered only when the governor declares a state of emergency, which has not happened in Texas in the wake of Katrina. If passed, HB 695 would give the attorney general discretion to prosecute price gougers during an abnormal disruption of the market without a disaster declaration.

District 3 Councilman Roland Gutierrez is currently working with officials from the Harlandale School District and City staff on an aid package for evacuees from the New Orleans area. The school district has offered the use of the original Gillette Elementary School, an unused, air-conditioned facility with running water and electricity, to the American Red Cross to house up to 60 families in need of shelter. In addition, Harlandale ISD has agreed to allow elementary-age children living in the shelter to walk to the nearby, new Gillette Elementary School campus to attend class.

- Nicole Chavez

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