Tuesday, September 6, 2005

President Bush yesterday urged Americans to continue to donate to private charitable organizations and faith-based groups in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“We’ve got people who represent thousands of volunteers who are in the midst of helping save lives,” the president said as he praised charity leaders at the White House. “If you want to help, support the Red Cross or the Salvation Army or your church or the United Way.”

Mr. Bush met in the White House with faith-based and community groups, including representatives from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, the United Way of America, the YMCA, Catholic Charities USA and several others.

Private donations to U.S. charities giving meals, water and shelter to victims of Hurricane Katrina had topped $300 million by Monday. The American Red Cross, which accounts for the bulk of private donations, said it had received $196.9 million so far, including roughly $85 million from corporate donors.

Still, more money is needed. American Red Cross spokeswoman Sarah Marchetti said her group did not have a specific target figure for donations, but that she knew the relief efforts would cost far more than the $130 million spent after the four hurricanes that hit the United States last year.

Mr. Bush has appointed his father, former President George Bush, and former President Bill Clinton to lead fundraising efforts in the United States, as they did for the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami in Asia.

Radio and television stations across the country have set a goal of raising at least $100 million, and the National Association of Broadcasters has designated Friday as a day for stations to hold telethons and other fundraising events.

During brief comments after his White House meeting, Mr. Bush took issue with the use of the word “refugees” to describe those displaced from New Orleans.

“There’s a debate here about refugees. Let me tell you my attitude and the attitude of people around this table: The people we’re talking about are not refugees. They are Americans, and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens. And the people at this table are providing that help and compassion and love,” the president said.

Mr. Bush also assured Americans that displaced people will continue to receive their Social Security checks, their veteran’s benefits checks and unemployment checks.

The Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, which consists of more than 1,300 local agencies and institutions nationwide, was among those at the White House.

“Catholic Charities USA is firmly committed to helping people rebuild their lives,” Mr. Snyder said.

Mr. Bush assured the religious leaders that their efforts are having an effect.

“Out of the darkness will come some light,” he said.

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