Indianapolis responds to Katrina devastation:

Local philanthropic response to the epic disaster was almost immediate.

Television and radio stations alike urged central Indiana audiences to make donations at dozens of collection sites, and the Salvation Army’s Indiana Division broke out its red kettles to help.

The corporate community also responded. Gifts made by IBJ’s deadline include:

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. said it will contribute $1 million to the American Red Cross and match all contributions made by its U.S. employees. Lilly also will give $1 million in insulin to those in the affected areas, and will consider additional pharmaceutical donations as specific needs become clear.

Dow Chemical Co.-the parent company of Indianapolis-based Dow Agro-Sciences-pledged $3 million to hurricanerelief efforts. Dow employs 7,000 people in Louisiana, many of whom had to abandon their homes.

Locally based WellPoint Inc.’s foundations will contribute $500,000 to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and will match 50 percent of employees’ contributions.

Tucker Mortgage LLC pledged to contribute $100 for each new mortgage transaction it handles through the end of the year. The Indianapolis mortgage company hopes to raise more than $40,000.

Employees in KeyBank’s retail banking group are giving the Disaster Relief Fund a $15,000 prize they won in a national sales contest.

Mayor Bart Peterson got into the act, too, urging city residents, religious organizations, not-for-profits and others who want to help to contact the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis to donate money or their time.

“In a time like this, many people in Indianapolis are asking what they can do to help our fellow Americans in need,” he said in a prepared statement. “The American Red Cross exists for this very purpose, so I encourage everyone to coordinate their efforts through them.”

The local Red Cross certainly has its hands full. In addition to sending two teams of volunteers to hurricane-ravaged areas-and keeping more on standby-the agency has been operating one of eight national response centers, helping storm victims who call in for help.

About 130 volunteers are trained to work in the 10-station call center, tapping into a national database to offer advice on finding food and shelter.

“Some are urgent, some are longer-term,” Red Cross spokesman Chris Hintz said of the inquiries. “But this allows them to find us and us to find them. Before, we had to do that all with people on the ground.”

This is the second time the local center has been activated; the first was in July after Hurricane Dennis came ashore in the Florida Panhandle.

Eventually, the Red Cross would like at least 200 volunteers who are able to work the call center, which operates 14 hours a day during crises. The center handled about 600 calls when it opened Aug. 29.

The Red Cross also is helping seven families who headed to Indianapolis after fleeing Katrina. Hintz said hurricane refugees started coming to the 10th Street facility midweek, seeking help with basic needs.

“We were kind of surprised they were here, but when you think of the scale of the disaster, the number of people left with nothing, it makes sense,” he said. “The destruction is just amazing.”

Would-be donors have been flooding the local Red Cross’phone lines, Hintz said, and some are reporting difficulty getting through. He said the agency’s Web site,, is another option.

Americans typically respond to tragedy with generosity, said Patrick Rooney, director of research at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy.

“The best way to help is by giving money-not clothing or food-to a known relief organization,” he said. “The people responding on the ground are in the best position to know what is needed and supply it accordingly.”

Local broadcasters are rallying central Indiana residents to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Philanthropic response has been strong.

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