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'We'll be here'

Just the other morning, Barbara Raynor was at the airport greeting a 25-ton planeload of hurricane relief supplies.

BY HEATHER MOYER | HOUSTON, Texas | September 14, 2005

"We're opening our arms and our doors."

—Barbara Raynor

Just the other morning, Barbara Raynor was at the airport greeting a 25-ton planeload of hurricane relief supplies.

The supplies were gathered by a Jewish day school in San Diego, and Raynor said just how all the donations arrived in Houston for Hurricane Katrina survivors is an example of people's generosity.

"A pilot from UPS saw all the donations and offered to help the students get them to Houston," explained Raynor, director of marketing and communications for the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston.

"So UPS donated the plane and the tractor trailers to move the supplies. And one of the tractor trailer drivers had been a UPS driver in New Orleans. He got out of line at the Astrodome to come help drive the trucks to a shelter. He said he felt it was important for people to get what they needed."

That kind of generosity is helping the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston (JFGH) meet the needs of hurricane survivors in the city. The JFGH office is now housing the staff from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, said Raynor, and many synagogues around Houston have taken in the staff from New Orleans synagogues.

"We're opening our arms and our doors," she said.

The JFGH's help does not just go to the Jewish community, added Raynor. She said they're helping anyone who needs it. The planeload of supplies will go to shelters throughout the city. The agency is also helping families find lost relatives, as well as providing volunteers to the shelters to serve food to the survivors.

"We're really working on the personal, institutional, and community level."

Raynor said calls are pouring in from synagogues and Jewish community agencies around the country. Some Jewish day schools are offering to take in displaced students. Another school is preparing backpacks for the children who now must attend school in Houston. Families are calling with offers to take in displaced families. She said the U.S. Jewish community has already raised more than $10 million for relief efforts.

Jewish leaders and community agencies in Houston are joining together to help as well. JFGH formed an emergency response team after Sept. 11, which helped them meet needs after Tropical Storm Alison, the explosion of the Columbia space shuttle, and the tsunami. Raynor said having it in place already only benefited the recovery operations that JFGH is taking part in after Hurricane Katrina. The team is made up of rabbis and agency representatives from across the city - all of whom are glad they can be of some assistance.

"When you sit in your living room somewhere else and you see what's going on - it's frustrating because you can't be there to help," she said. "But to be here at the epicenter and be able to do something hands-on is a blessing."

Raynor added that they will continue to help for as long as needed. "The fact of the matter is that no one knows how long this will take - but we'll be here."

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Related Links:

Jewish Federation of Greater Houston

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