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Companies give cash, goods to aid relief efforts

Companies are rounding up much-needed goods and pitching millions in cash to help communities battered by Hurricane Katrina.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue personnel prepare gear before leaving to support efforts in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue personnel prepare gear before leaving to support efforts in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.Phil Mccarten / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Pharmaceutical companies rounded up much-needed medicine, water suppliers loaded trucks with thirst-quenching cargo and companies from petroleum giants to beer makers have pitched in millions in cash and products to help communities battered by Hurricane Katrina.

The efforts to collect money and goods to help the Gulf Coast rebuild has had steady momentum as officials continued assessing the damage from one of the nation’s worst natural disasters.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said initial corporate donations to the relief effort could total more than $100 million, including $5 million from Chevron Corp., $3 million each from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup, $2 million from Pfizer Inc. and $1 million from insurer State Farm.

Wal-Mart committed to $15 million in donations to jump-start the fundraising efforts headed by former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. As part of the plan, the nation's largest retailer will establish mini-Wal-Mart stores in hurricane-ravaged areas, and will provide free items — clothing, diapers, baby wipes, food, formula, toothbrushes, bedding and water — to those who demonstrate need.

The Walt Disney Co. contributed $2.5 million, $1 million of which will go to the American Red Cross and the rest for rebuilding efforts and volunteer centers helping affected communities.

Shell Oil Company and Motiva Enterprises LLC dedicated $2 million to the American Red Cross, and will match employee donations up to another $1 million.Nissan North America sent 50 trucks. Anheuser-Busch offered more than 825,000 cans of water. Sprint Nextel Corp. donated 3,000 walkie talkie-type phones for emergency personnel.

Seven truckloads of crackers and cookies were on the way thanks to Kellogg Co. Two dozen cars and trucks were offered by General Motors Corp. Home Depot and Lowe’s pledged cash and manpower, while Culligan International sent five truckloads of water.

More than 100 tractor trailers from as far away as California and Wisconsin were on their way to aid Katrina’s victims in southwest Alabama with food, water, ice and blankets.

“It’s a good feeling to help. They don’t have food, no water, blankets or anything,” said driver Tim Cupp, who is ready to deliver a truck full of Meals-Ready-to-Eat. “It’s hard to put yourself in their shoes.”

In Indianapolis, drug maker Eli Lilly & Co. prepared to send 40,000 vials of refrigerated insulin to patients in the Southeast, along with at least $1 million in cash to the American Red Cross.

“We’re poised to ship as soon as we get the OK,” Lilly spokesman Edward Sagebiel said.

Drug maker Wyeth of Madison, N.J., planned to donate antibiotics and nonprescription pain relievers, health care giant Johnson & Johnson provided $250,000 worth of kits containing toothbrushes, soap and shampoo, as well as pallets of pain relievers and wound care supplies. Drug maker Merck & Co. planned to send antibiotics and hepatitis A vaccines to protect those facing contaminated waters.

“Our commitment is open-ended,” said Merck spokeswoman Janet Skidmore.

Illinois-based pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories Inc. is giving $2 million cash and at least $2 million in nutritional and medical products.

Hank Goldstein, chairman of Giving USA in Glenview, Ill., said individual and corporate donations combined could reach $1 billion.

But he predicted the corporate relief effort would be smaller than those recorded after the 2001 terrorist attacks and the tsunami that ravaged Asia in December.

“This kind of money comes quick and comes early and then falls off fast after that,” Goldstein said. “It will abate along with the water.”

Qwest Communications International Inc. will send 2,000 long-distance calling cards so those affected could call loved ones, said spokesman Michael Dunne. He said Denver-based Qwest also has given the Red Cross $230,000 to help train responders.

Office Depot of Delray Beach, Fla., donated $1 million to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief efforts. Officials announced Wednesday the company also would give the contents of its five New Orleans stores, valued at $4 million, to New Orleans officials to use as they recover from Hurricane Katrina.