As the death toll increases in earthquake-devastated Haiti, so does the amount of donations headed there, local agencies report.
"We've been inundated with people walking in with donations," said Claudia Moore, director of marketing for the American Red Cross Greater Chattanooga Area Chapter. "We had a huge stack of mail on Monday that we had to bring somebody to help us process and enter those donations."
She said local Red Cross officials expect to raise between $100,000 and $200,000, based on activity workers have seen so far.
Unum announced it is donating up to $200,000 and Bi-Lo Charities launched a donation program in which shoppers can donate to the Red Cross to help those in Haiti. Bi-Lo, in turn, will match customer donations up to $25,000.
Donations are coming in regularly at the headquarters of AMG International in Chattanooga, said Roger Thomas, coordinator of outreach projects and sponsorship programs at the evangelical mission and relief organization.
"Gifts are coming in at a rate of 20 a day just for Haiti, and they range anywhere from $5 to one for $5,000 from one of our regular donors," Mr. Thomas said.
His church, Signal Mountain Bible Church, collected a significant amount for Haiti relief effort last Sunday, he said, and it will hold a walk and race on Feb. 6 that also will generate proceeds for Haiti.
Locally, the Salvation Army has received more than $9,000 in checks alone, said Kimberly George, director of marketing and development for the local Salvation Army.
"We've seen an amazing response," she said. "There's been an outpouring of support from Chattanoogans as well as just Americans overall."
HELPING THE HELPERS
Churches, organizations, schools and other groups throughout the region are helping raise money, many times to distribute to larger agencies.
A wooden bell carved with the Haitian proverb "No one listens to the cry of the poor or the sound of a wooden bell" inspired children and staff members at the Bright School to decorate 500 small bells to help with the Haiti relief effort.
On Tuesday morning, the children decorated the bells with words such as "I listen," "I care," "I hear," and "I help" with paint and markers of different colors. The bells will be sold for $5 and the proceeds will benefit the Chattanooga-based Children's Nutrition Program in Haiti, whose headquarters in Leogane were destroyed.
"They see images in the media, and it's our job as adults to help them process what they are seeing and help them understand that, even if they are far away, they can do little things that can make a difference and help people," said Kim Brown, director of marketing and community relations for the private school.
The Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga is collecting blankets, canned goods and clothes to give to the Salvation Army by Friday, said Bassam Issa, a member leading the collection.
The society also will give a check for more than $1,000 to a relief organization, but he said they still haven't decided which one.
"Our foundation of Islam is to help every brother that needs help, regardless of the religion," he said. "Everyone was very saddened by this. Every time a natural disaster happens, people imagine how they would feel if it had happened to them."
He said the society will continue the collection of items and money since the need in Haiti is continuous.
At Tennessee Temple University, a group of 13 students has set a goal of raising $20,000 so the Mission of Hope in Haiti can buy containers with supplies including water, food and shelter.
"I lead the worship band and we started a service, called Project Freedom, which is a service where students get together, worship and pray," said Andrew Perry, a third-year student from Atlanta.
"Our first service was last Tuesday, when everything in Haiti happened, so God has put it on our hearts to try to raise some money to send down there," Mr. Perry said.
So far, the group has raised $1,100 in donations, including from members' own pockets, and it is figuring out how to raise the rest, he said.
Times Free Press staff photographer Allison Kwesell is in Haiti with locally based relief groups. She will be sending photos and dispatches sharing her observations and writing about what she sees this week. See the paper this week and on Sunday.
* Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
* About 54 percent of its more than 9 million residents live in abject poverty.
* Haiti is slightly smaller than Maryland and shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.
* The population is 95 percent black and 80 percent Roman Catholic.
* French and Creole are the official languages.
* About half the population practices voodoo.
* The nation has four airports with paved runways and is favored by Colombian drug dealers for routing cocaine shipments, in part because of widespread corruption.
Source: CIA World Factbook
CLOSER TO HOME
The U.S. Bureau of Census estimates there are 19,642 Georgia residents and 1,820 persons living in Tennessee with Haitian ancestry.
Volunteers may travel to Haiti with Score International for $1,200, which includes airfare, meals, lodging, supplies and ground transportation overseas.
Dates include: Jan. 30-Feb. 4 and every Saturday through Thursday for the following six weeks.
For more information, contact Trey Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-894-7111.
TIPS FOR CHARITABLE GIVING
* Research charities before you contribute. Use sources such as the Better Business Bureau (www.give.org) and GuideStar (www.guidestar.org).
* Be wary of telephone solicitors asking for contributions.
* Never give your credit card, debit card or bank account information to a telephone solicitor.
* If a tax deduction is important to you, make sure the organization has a tax deductible 501(c)3 status with the IRS.
* Watch out for organizations that use questionable techniques such as sending unordered merchandise or invoices after you have turned them down for a donation.
* Citizens can file a complaint against a charitable organization at www.sos.ga.gov/securities.
* For more information, call Georgia Secretary of State's Securities and Business Regulation Division at 404-656-3920.
Source: Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp
* The Department of Homeland Security set up a system to document all offers of aid for Haiti from local and state governments so they can be properly utilized as the disaster response effort progresses.
* Civic groups, businesses and individuals are being asked to submit their offers of donations to the Center for International Disaster Information at www.cidi.org.