Leaders ponder local hurricane aid | VailDaily.com

Leaders ponder local hurricane aid

J.K. Perry

Darrell Ford, a hurricane refugee from New Orleans, looks for a pair of jeans in the piles of clothes set in the grass between the barracks Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005, at Fort Chaffee, Ark. (AP Photo/Times Record, Kaia Larsen)

EAGLE ” Local leaders urged Eagle County residents Tuesday not to head off and help victims of Hurricane Katrina or work to bring evacuees to the valley before officials put together the necessary resources to help Gulf Coast victims.

“It’s hard for [aid workers] to deal with unsolicited help,” said Barry Smith, the county’s top emergency manager.

“We need to be very comprehensive in the way we do this,” added Kathleen Forinash, county director of Health and Human Services.

Housing, transportation, food and other goods and services must be considered and assembled before bringing evacuees to the valley, she said.

Salvation Army officials, law enforcement, a religious leader, other groups and individuals met together Tuesday to figure out how to bring evacuees to the valley and create a clearinghouse for hurricane relief.

In the meantime, leaders continue to encourage individuals to donate money to aid organizations.

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“If you’re interested in raising money, don’t necessarily plan to ship it to Louisiana when we may need it in the valley” for evacuees, said Dan Smith of the Salvation Army.

The group will figure out if sufficient housing, jobs, volunteers and other services are available for evacuees in Eagle County. All of these things must be in place for one or more families to relocate to the valley successfully, many said.

Officials said candidates could be interviewed and drawn from the evacuee families staying at Lowry Air Force Base in Aurora. A number of families in Grand Junction were also mentioned.

“We should be wrapping ourselves around something more locally,” said Gail Cameron-Britt, director of volunteering for the county. She advocated providing food and housing for the evacuees at Lowry.

KT Gazunis, director of the county Housing Department, said three units are available at Riverview Apartments in Avon. She added U.S. Housing and Urban Development has freed up low-income housing for evacuees.

Amanda Jensen said she and two friends are reconsidering their plan to bring a family to the valley because leaders are now working to mobilize resources.

“I’m going step back and see the results they’re going to have,” she said. “They have so much more power than three girls with heart. If it doesn’t work we’ll have to go in another direction.”

Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or jkperry@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado