Life's Better Ideas

Occasional links to, and comments on, ideas that I think will make this a better world, and remarks about things that need fixing, too.

Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Monday, September 12, 2005

Private Katrina Relief

This is from one of my nieces:

Below is an email from my friend Marilyn Sutherland. She and her husband along with Anne and Doug Peterson own the Quality Inn Market Center.
They are the only hotel in Dallas that we know of that has not kicked the victims out. They are able to do this because of the volunteers and donations from folks like us.

I know each of you are doing what you can to help. I just wanted to pass this along because it's a good story, one that's working and I am tired of hearing all the bickering and finger pointing in the media. Also, if you want to help by going down to help, or donate something, or give money she describes how to do just that.

I am going to volunteer 1/2 a week during the work week (they have many people who can work on the weekends), (we) help with food costs and do what I can to help get jobs for those looking.

Thanks for being such good friends and family. I feel great joy sending this to you because you DO make a difference in my life - currently and already.


From: Marilyn Kodish Sutherland
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2005 03:41:52 -0500

Dear Friends & Family,

Most of you know Chuck and I own a hotel in Dallas Texas. We have had 800 people at the hotel who are survivors of the hurricane since Katrina hit. We've got over 300 this weekend and we're getting a new influx on Monday.

People came to our hotel, expecting to stay for a day or two. When the hurricane hit, they lost their home, their job, everything. The paychecks they were expecting never arrived. Other hotels turned people away when they couldn't pay but we couldn't do that. And when we found out the only meal people were getting was our free breakfast because they had no money, we started feeding them 3 meals a day at no charge to them. It costs about $1500 to provide 3 meals a day.

We have already moved 75 families into apartments (where we arranged 3 months free rent). Each family that has moved into an apartment received a move-in package with household furnishings, linens, etc. put together by local churches. We're getting 75 more move-in packages tomorrow in anticipation of moving the next group out to apartments.

We had our first job fair to help them get work last Wednesday, 2 days after the hurricane hit. Over 50 people have received permanent jobs and the other adults have received temporary jobs (although many are minimum wage which isn't enough to support their families). We have people fill out a universal application which we are sharing with companies who are looking to hire people. Today while I was at the hotel someone from Eatzi's (a gourmet café/store) came to review applications and will be setting up interviews in the next day or two.

Before the hurricane hit, we had one computer for our guests in the lobby. Within a few days of the hurricane, a church donated 5 more which are in use all the time - so people can access services online and find their family members.

We have a warehouse full of donated clothes and shoes in bags and boxes that have to be sorted so that people can find clothes that will fit. We need volunteers right now to do that. We also need volunteers to help people apply for their benefits online, find family members, get prescriptions filled, and listen or whatever else they need.

These people are starting from scratch. It is unimaginable. Many do not know where their family members are. They have no job, no access to money, a future full of uncertainty. They are so grateful for everything we do and are traumatized by what they have been through. And they need their neighbors - that's you and me - now!

A member of Congress - Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson - is coming to our hotel tomorrow to see what we're doing and meet some of the survivors.

Our local CBS affiliate - Channel 11 - reported on our "relief efforts" on Wednesday, saying "the Quality Inn hotel is the best organized relief organization in Dallas". That is an amazing acknowledgement of the hotel staff and community that has combined efforts to service our guests. We are hopeful we can get at least partial reimbusement for the housing portion but haven't figured out how to do that yet!

What can you do?
1) Volunteer! Come to the hotel to sort clothes, help people navigate the system, just listen. We need people every day all day and will continue to need people until they are all settled into jobs and permanent housing.
Everything makes a difference.
2) Donate a $50 gas credit card for people who have cars so they can drive to work (they need gas money the first week or two until they get paid) 3) Donate a gas card (so people have gas money their first week of work until they get paid) and/or a Walmart or Target gift cards (for special needs like adult diapers for their grandmother or extra large clothes that are not donated or special clothes/uniform for their job or for household items as part of the move-in package)
4) Donate money: (without this we can't provide the relief services we are committed to providing)
- Sponsor a family by paying for their housing and food - it costs about $55 night for each family
- Contribute to or sponsor a move-in package for when they move to an apartment (cost is about $500)
- Help us provide relief services like an extra van ($1600) to transport people to the FEMA or Red Cross office, etc.
5) Come up with brilliant ideas for what else is needed by these amazing survivors and take it on to help us provide that!

If you can make donations to the hotel directly, please write a check to the Quality Inn Market Center and trust us to use it to feed and house these people. If you want to make a tax deductible donation, you can write a check to the Bajito Onda Katrina Fund which is a special 501(c)(3) fund created in partnership with a local nonprofit to support our guests who are survivors.

To volunteer, show up!

The attached article is from the Dallas Morning News earlier this week and the end of the article talks a little about our hotel.

Why am I sending you this?
1) So you know what Chuck and I are doing as owners of the Quality Inn
2) So you have some sense of what is needed by these people as they create a new life from scratch in a new city
3) So you know how you and others can make a difference for the survivors and for us in providing relief services

Each of you receiving this is someone who wants to make a difference with others. Thank you for whatever you can do, including sharing this with others. Every conversation, every effort whether at our hotel or in your own community will make a difference.

Marilyn Sutherland
Quality Inn Market Center
1955 Market Center Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75207
hotel: 214-747-9551
My cell: 214-797-9916
My home office: 214-696-6926


If you can afford another check, please do. I did.


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