Monday, April 22, 2024

Libby area fundraising under way

| September 7, 2005 12:00 AM

Local residents have shown their concern for victims of Hurricane Katrina with an outpouring of financial contributions toward relief efforts.

They have donated through churches, work places and other avenues to help people struggling to survive.

Pastor Les Nelson of Christ Lutheran Church said he urged parishioners Sunday to give what they could afford. He said the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has a relief program in place.

"It's a nice benefit to have a strong national group," he said.

Nelson added that Thrivent Financial for Lutherans will match each $2 donation with $1 of its own. Thrivent members can make their donations through

The Lincoln County Credit Union is matching funds donated through the credit union to hurricane relief up to $2,500. Contributions will be taken until Oct. 20, according to credit union president Chari Lucas.

"We know that those affected by Hurricane Katrina will need help for some time to come," she said in a press release. "It is our hope that by making a donation in October, the funds will be allocated at a time when more people are aware of the extent of the damage they have personally suffered."

Credit union members and non-members are invited to stop by the credit union and make a tax deductible contribution to American Red Cross Disaster Katrina, Lucas said. Credit union employees also will donate money to participate in "casual Fridays," with proceeds going to relief efforts, she added.

St. John's Lutheran Hospital employees raised $1,000 in less than two days last week after hospital spokeswoman K.C. Hoyer organized an impromptu jeans day. The events are usually held quarterly to benefit a local charity, with participants pledging money for the privilege of wearing jeans to work.

The response was overwhelming, Hoyer said, because the events usually raise from $200 to $250. She got the fund-raiser going in 48 hours rather than the typical two weeks of organization normally required. The money will go to the American Red Cross, which will funnel it to efforts on the Gulf Coast.

Hospital CEO Bill Patten gave jeans day a fast go-ahead.

"This is a fun way to rally the troops around an issue that extends beyond our comfort zone," he said, adding that hospital emplyees were especially motivated to help "our brothers and sisters in health care."

Hospital officials initially considered sending medical supplies, but learned that relief workers requested money instead.

"We decided sending funds was a more expeditious way," Patten said.

Jo Steiger, a prep cook at the hospital, said there was no decision other than to help out.

"These people are in very bad shape," she said. "I don't have a lot of money, but I felt God was directing me."

Rehab receptionist Karen Hutchinson also jumped at the chance to contribute through her place of employment.

"I wanted to donate locally," she said. "It makes it more personal. Anytime people are in a destitute situation you have to reach out.

"My heart goes out to them. I let the Lord lead in me in whatever direction He wants."

Jan Ivers, a medical technologist at St. John's, could relate on a minor level to what New Orleans residents were going through. She grew up on a ranch in eastern Montana and rivers occasionally overflowed their banks, causing the family to use a row boat to get from their house to a car parked on higher ground.

Ivers recalled having to battle rising water to keep it out of the house. Coupled with her medical knowledge, the background gave her special motivation to contribute.

"From the medical viewpoint you can see all the problems — sanitation, drinking water. It's all mixed in with disease," Ivers said. "This is devastating. I'd love to go down there and work."

Some area residents are doing just that.

Libby Forest Service employees Jeanne Thompson and Nancy Cosgriff are working with an incident management team sent to help with disaster recovery efforts. Thompson is a purchasing agent at the Kootenai National Forest Supervisor's Office, and Cosgriff works at the Canoe Gulch Ranger Station. Both are part of the buying team for the Northern Rockies region. The team was in Alabama over the weekend.

"They are trying to get as close to the actual area as they can, but they have to have communications like telephone and so on," said Thompson's husband, Russ Thompson. "They will gradually get as close as they can."

Team members serve a 14-day tour of duty, but if the situation remains critical they may be given a day or two of rest and then called back for another 14-day tour, Thompson said.

Lee Chandler of Libby left Sept. 2 to work as a catastrophic insurance adjuster in the Gulf Coast. His wife, Cheryl, said he drove the family's fifth-wheel and is currently staying 20 miles outside of Baton Rouge, La.

"He drove down because they have to have four-wheel-drive pickups," Cheryl said. "He's in Baton Rouge and is working his way south to New Orleans."

Chandler has done catastrophic adjusting work for six years, after retiring from a 20-year insurance career. He works through State Farm Insurance for a large contractor called Eberls Catastrophic Adjusters.

Cheryl Chandler said she wasn't sure how long Lee will be away from home.

"There'll be thousands of adjusters down there on this one," she said.