Businesses find way to help

Businesses in Washington, D.C., are coming together to help Hurricane Katrina survivors - and trying to encourage other communities nationwide to do the same.

BY SUSAN KIM | WASHINGTON, D.C. | September 28, 2005

Hurricane Rita's winds uprooted trees and ripped off roofs. (DNN photo by Chuck Hustmyre)
Credit: Disaster News Network

Businesses in Washington, D.C., are coming together to help Hurricane Katrina survivors - and trying to encourage other communities nationwide to do the same.

There are an estimated 5,000 evacuees living in the Washington, D.C., region - an area that already has 100,000 unemployed people.

"With over 20,000 jobs available in the Washington, D.C., region, there is no reason we cannot try to help all individuals who are looking for a job right now," said Summer Spencer, executive director of the Workforce Organizations for Regional Collaboration (WORC).

WORC is a nonprofit in the Washington, D.C., area that helps match businesses in the region with nonprofits - such as The Salvation Army and Goodwill - that have work-ready candidates. About 40 businesses are planning to attend. And clients will have access to other free services, too, from social service providers that have agreed to be on site. "People also need information about licenses, about birth certificates, things like that," said Spencer.

"The outpouring of help from volunteers has been amazing," she added. "We have people who can help work on resumes, people who can help with cover letters, people who can talk about interview skills and do mock interviews."

Many nonprofits and church groups across the country offer job training programs, and so there may be an opportunity to replicate the effort elsewhere, said Spencer.

WORC - in partnership with the Shiloh Baptist Church - is holding a Regional Career and Services Fair on Friday at the church’s family center.

Spencer said she wanted to help hurricane survivors - but also support people already in D.C. who needed the same types of services. "We have students in our training programs who are homeless, who are working two jobs and still coming to training. I want to make sure we're remembering them and continuing to include them."

When it comes to job training, employment and other services, hurricane survivors and D.C.'s unemployed individuals have some similar needs.

"Some of them need training, some need employment, some need houses. Some people need interview clothing, transportation or child care. It's a great way for the business community to help hurricane survivors and help the greater region at the same time."

Business owners want to help hurricane survivors, said Spencer, but need some constructive suggestions for how to assist. "After the hurricane hit, we were getting inundated with calls from businesses asking how they could help."

Involving churches and smaller grassroots organizations is also good way to informally link up business owners with people who need jobs, she said. "Those are the agencies that are really getting to know the people living in their neighborhoods. They should set up their own networks."

Spencer said she realized that one event cannot solve unemployment or provide instant relief to hurricane survivors. But, she added, "this is one step toward coming together as a community to support the people who live among us."

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