Utah could receive as many as 2,000 evacuees from the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast region. If they are received as warmly as the first 583 evacuees at Camp Williams, they will come to know Utahns as generous, loving people who actively seek out ways to help their fellow human beings.
Whether from members of the Utah National Guard, volunteers at private nonprofit agencies, state government employees or private citizens who have offered prayers, hugs and words of encouragement, every deed has helped to comfort men, women and children whose lives have been turned upside down. Camp Williams has even established a kennel to house domestic animals brought here by evacuees. Some evacuees have said they've been so impressed with Utah's response that they may consider relocating here.
So many Utahns called a state-run relief hotline that it was shut down Tuesday after officials determined they had received more than enough offers of help. The hotline received more than 7,000 calls in one week.
Utahns appear to have a pent-up desire to help. Perhaps most telling were the hundreds of would-be volunteers who endured long lines to attend Red Cross volunteer training sessions this past weekend. After watching and reading the ongoing news coverage of the worst natural disaster in United States history, many people expressed a heartfelt desire to provide hands-on assistance to evacuees.
Service members from the Utah National Guard, local police and firefighters, funeral directors, as well as a medical team of 26 doctors and nurses from the University of Utah are lending aid in the Gulf Coast region. Supplies of food, water and clothing collected in various donations from Utah's private sector are trickling into large-scale evacuation centers.
Not everyone can help in this capacity, however. Considering that recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast region are ongoing, there will be a continued need for financial contributions to disaster relief agencies and other private organizations involved in the relief effort. The Deseret Morning News web site, deseretnews.com/gulfcoastaid.html, has a link to a list of government agencies, nonprofit agencies, and religious organizations responding to the disaster. Click on the Katrina Relief link for more information.
For the thousands of Utahns who already have responded to this disaster, thank you for your compassion and concern. For those who have yet to help, there is still time to do so. Please give generously.