Help – in any way you can | AspenTimes.com

Help – in any way you can

There isn’t a single American or Aspenite at this point who hasn’t been touched somehow by Hurricane Katrina. Most of us are fortunate enough to have been somewhere else when the storm walloped the Gulf Coast and left much of the region in watery ruin. But we’ve all seen the imagery and heard the stories coming out of New Orleans, and we all want to help.How to do it? It’s one thing to write a check or donate a portion of your paycheck, as millions of Americans have done – a recent Associated Press story said donations nationwide have exceeded $219 million. But when you turn on the news at night and see the continuing suffering, the squalid conditions and the violence, it’s easy to feel as though a monetary donation has no impact.Some generous locals are taking matters into their own hands. Last week, Basaltine Mike Fondo loaded a U-Haul van full of supplies and made a beeline for Louisiana. At this point he’s already dropped off some of his goods, but he’s still headed southward to the most severely damaged areas. More recently, a group of concerned residents from Carbondale began collecting donated goods at a storage unit; they’re planning to leave for the Gulf Coast on Thursday.Numerous other efforts are in the works: Last we heard, the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department had raised nearly $30,000 for its disaster relief fund. A host of local restaurants are planning a big disaster-relief bash culminating at the Belly Up on Tuesday. Last night, city and county officials discussed how to possibly house hurricane victims locally, and Jimmy’s is partnering with The Museum of the American Cocktail on a fund-raiser Monday. The online business Bid Aspen is collecting items for sale on eBay; proceeds will go to the American Red Cross, and the business is waiving its commissions on those sales. And the list goes on. Still, there are other ways to help. Some have already opened their homes to hurricane victims. On our Columnists link is a guest opinion by Laura Whittemore of Carbondale, who suggests that a phone call, some kind words, a bit of moral support for a New Orleans refugee – don’t we all know at least one? – can be as valuable as cash or clothing. And the simple question “How can I help?” can lead to all sorts of answers and opportunities.Terrible things have happened over the past week and a half on the Gulf Coast, and whatever the reason, relief has been slow to reach the victims. Given the initial failure of “official” responses, however, Americans are reacting with real, direct, hands-on help and solutions.One characteristic that distinguishes humans from other animals is the ability to feel, to care and to help each other in times of need. Let’s all become helpers.