Dear Fellow Rotarians,
Hurricane Katrina is America’s tsunami. While we will not have the loss of life that occurred that December day, I fear we will experience a count that will exceed that of 9-11. I have no doubt the financial cost will well exceed that of 9-11.
The number of American lives that this hurricane will effect directly will be also be huge. Besides the deaths, the number of people who will have lost everything they own is already staggering. And the litany of loss will leave no one untouched. I’m afraid the cost of gasoline is just the tip of the iceberg for those of us lucky enough to not have been in the path of Katrina’s landing on the Gulf coast.
As a Rotarian, I know you are thinking: how can I help? While we are still working out the details, I want to give you a heads-up on what our District has already launched.
District Governor Keith Blankenship and his wife Paula have been working with Past District Governors John Beckett and Vinnie Kudva, District Governor Nominee Tom Greenstreet, World Community Service Chair Dr. Bob Sahadevan, and others, to get our efforts in place.
An account has been established with BB&T banks that will allow anyone to stop in at a local BB&T and make a contribution.
Contact has been established with the Governor of District 6840, and we have committed to work with individual clubs within his district, which covers southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi, the areas most effected.
It is our intention to work with local clubs in the rural areas of both of these states. We believe that the cities will receive adequate attention from other sources. We want to work with other Rotarians in the smaller communities to help them rebuild their neighborhoods, which may not receive the same level of attentiveness.
As someone who lived in Mobile during my college years, I got to know the coast between there and New Orleans. There are many small communities in which a West Virginian would feel right at home. Good people. Friendly and hospitable, people without a lot, but blessed with a deep sense of family, strong values and self reliance. These are the people that we want to directly assist through Rotary.
It will take time for us to establish the contacts with the local clubs. Obviously, our fellow Rotarians there have personal issues to deal with first. But once we can, we will work with them to identify specific projects for which we can provide funding. We will take these projects to Rotary International, in order to receive additional grants, thus multiplying the funds we raise. We will know where our dollars are spent, who is spending them, and who is receiving them.
Think of that fishing boat with our club’s name that is on the Indian Ocean today, and I think you'll see why I believe that this approach is so important.
Of course, there is also the fact that not one penny of any donation will be spent on administrative costs.
During this time, we can begin raising the funds we will put to work in the near future.
We are also working on a secondary fund raising project that will put collection jugs in retail and other locations, in order to get people to donate their change.
There are still some issues that need to be ironed out. At this moment, the District Disaster Relief fund is not tax deductible. The District does not have 501(c)3 status, an oversight that will be corrected as quickly as possible. In the mean time, we are investigating the use of the tax-free status of several clubs’ foundations, so that the tax deductibility of contributions will be legal.
We also are inquiring about the amount of matching Rotary International will do on these projects. Under existing rules, only international projects, projects between clubs from different countries, can get the full $1:$1 benefit. It may be that we receive a $.50: $1 benefit, or less.
We are working with our district’s PR chairperson, Gene Ellison, to prepare media announcements as soon as we have all the needed details.
In the meantime, please be active about promoting our efforts to your friends and co-workers. While we know that there will be great generosity among Americans, the dollars will not be unlimited, particularly as more of the effects creep through our economy.
What we have to offer is that our funds:
- Will deliver 100% of the donation to those who are in need: no administrative costs whatsoever
- The funds will be spent on projects which are proposed by the local Rotarians on the scene, and will be overseen by Rotary International's rules for meaningful projects and proper accountability
- We will know exactly where every cent we raise is spent and by whom
- It is highly probable that contributions will be matched by Rotary International to some extent, thus increasing the value of the contribution
I will update you as frequently as possible as details are finalized.
For anyone wishing to donate now, they may do so at any BB&T. The donation should be made to “Rotary International District 7550 Disaster Relief Fund” account # 5173402386.
Please contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.
As Governor Keith has said: “We in southern West Virginia understand the devastation of flooding and how it affects the lives of so many, especially the children. Therefore, I am confident, with your assistance, District 7550 will be able the ease the pain and suffering of families through our efforts.”
When we see the tragedies we've seen these last few years, we also see the goodness of people rise to meet the needs of our fellow humans. This will be no different. I have every confidence that each of you will take part in our district’s and our club’s efforts to show once again what Service Above Self means to a Rotarian.
Yours in Rotary,
Ken Jaskot, DGE 2006-2007