- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Potomac family is fulfilling its desire to help Hurricane Katrina victims by embarking on a road mission to the Gulf Coast with food, water and offers of jobs and housing in this region.

“We are looking for people who are looking to relocate to Washington, D.C., because they don’t have anything left. We could give them a place to stay and a job,” said David Benson, who with his father, Larry Sullivan, left suburban Maryland on Wednesday with a truck loaded with supplies for a church shelter in Franklinton, La., about 70 miles north of New Orleans.

The family — which owns and operates Rockville-based Architectural Ceramics — has already lined up about 20 potential jobs for evacuees through business networks and area restaurateurs.

Job offers have come in from remodeling and carpentry contractors and from people active in such community groups as the Girl Scouts.

Mr. Sullivan’s wife, Betty, remains at home to coordinate the influx of offers and housing arrangements coming in from residents.

“I’m just trying to compile the list,” Mrs. Sullivan said. “We’re hoping we can get as many people as possible.”

The family’s efforts were nearly halted by tight security and a lack of transportation, Mr. Sullivan said.

Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Benson had to drive to Houston on Friday to rent a 12-passenger van, and organizations such as the Red Cross were unwilling to provide the locations of shelters for hurricane evacuees out of security concerns.

“They really don’t want to tell you because they’re so wary about people trying to scam people, I guess,” Mr. Sullivan said. “For smaller efforts like we’re making it’s very hard to legitimize yourself.”

Mr. Sullivan and his son finally tracked down a partnership of 18 Baptist churches in the area caring for hurricane refugees.

Yesterday, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Benson unloaded two loads of supplies. The first, in Franklinton, was food and water — including two pallets of water from the Gaithersburg-based DrinkMore Water company. The men stopped at a Costco store to buy such items as bath towels, shampoo and soap to make a second drop-off at the Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, La. They were scheduled to meet with church officials last night to discuss matching evacuees with jobs.

The family members said they will continue to help as long as needed and that they intend to make as many return trips as possible in the coming months.

“It didn’t sit right with us sitting back, running our business and making money while people are suffering,” Mr. Sullivan said. “We’re people of action. It was just a desire to help people, and they certainly need it.”

The family and other volunteers are bolstering their efforts by establishing a foundation, called Washington Cares, to help fund their efforts. The foundation soon will have a Web site — www.washingtoncares.org — and will begin accepting calls tomorrow at 301/762-2115.


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