Locals help out in relief effort

By Cody Ellerd

What do baking cookies, singing opera, making bookmarks and conducting street interviews all have in common?

They are examples of the big-hearted efforts Mercer Islanders are making to be involved in disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

From schools to churches to concerned groups of neighbors, residents are pooling their resources and showing their creativity to help those affected by the nasty weather.

Response from teachers, students

Little people with big hearts at West Mercer Elementary School filled more than 80 backpacks with school supplies for kids from New Orleans. Now they're on to their next project of creating bookmarks that will be professionally published and sold in exchange for donations.

One of the families displaced by Katrina belongs to a teacher at Lakeridge Elementary School. With their home in Waveland, Miss., washed completely away, fellow teachers at the school set up an account for donations and were able to raise enough money to get the family an apartment in Jacksonville, Fla.

`01 MIHS grad anchors disaster news

A bit farther up the educational food chain, Mercer Island High School class of `01 graduate Jordan Sandler, who recently received his B.A. from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism, has been in the thick of it as an anchor for KPLC TV in Lake Charles, La. In the aftermath of Katrina he covered the New Orleans Saints' win over Carolina, which he told his mother raised spirits and gave people something positive to focus on, Madelyn Sandler said.

``He wanted to get in his car and go rescue people,'' Sandler said of her son. ``He's been right in the midst of it all.''

As Hurricane Rita approached the Gulf Coast, the 22-year-old reporter was out on the street after evacuation orders had been delivered to the residents of Lake Charles, asking them in live spots why they were still there.

With the contents of his apartment packed into his car and tucked away into a garage, Sandler planned to ride out the storm in a local hospital with other members of the national media, where they expected to have beds and food to last them through to sunnier skies.

Congregations joining relief efforts

Many congregations on the Island have also rallied to the cause, taking up collections of money and supplies and sending them to people in need through church networks.

The Mercer Island Presbyterian Church reports that members of its congregation have enrolled in Red Cross volunteer training programs, either to be deployed to affected areas or to be prepared to help in case of a future emergency at home.

The Congregation Church of Mercer Island will use the power of music to help with an Oct. 15 benefit concert featuring an opera performance by its choir soloist, Signe Mortensen.

In addition to $9,000, health kits and school packets, Pastor JoAnn Schadt-Patterson of Mercer Island United Methodist pointed out another resource tapped by her church congregation: ``We also prayed a whole lot.''

Churches and schools are not the only ones using their abilities of community outreach. Neighborhoods and businesses are sounding the call as well.

Island resident Maria Sommerfield is organizing a neighborhood garage sale to raise money to be donated to Habitat for Humanity's home rebuilding efforts. The sale is from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, on S.E. 34th Street.

The financial services firm Edward Jones is matching contributions its associates make to the American Red Cross. Mercer Island associates Naomi Mason and Terry Felton have contributed to the more than $2 million the firm had raised nationwide as of Sept. 23. It is collecting donations from its customers as well.

There are far too many projects to mention here, but chances are, whatever churches or schools you attend, businesses you patronize or associations you belong to know how to help you help the hurricane victims. And if not, your own big heart may want to try out its own skills of organization.

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